After the 2010 season, the Washington Nationals felt that they had to make a big splash and get a premier free agent to show that they were on their way to turning the team into a contender. Some people thought it would be first baseman Prince Fielder, but he eventually went to the Detroit Tigers. So, who would the Nats get to try to have a season that had the team win more than 80 games for the first time since 2005 (the inaugural season in Washington)?
They chose to make a move that seemed puzzling to some and signed outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million deal. Now, the Nats had familiarity with Werth from his time with the Phillies. However, the outfielder never had a 100 RBI season and was only an All-Star once in 2009, the year the Phillies lost the World Series to the Yankees.
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However, Werth had some great success against the Nationals in his six seasons with the Phillies. In 64 games, he hit .296 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI’s, six of those homers coming at Nationals’ Park from 2008-2010. The man who now has the “Caveman” beard did average 29 homers per season in that three-year period, including 36 dingers in 2009.
Now, at age 35, the outfielder that chosen by the Orioles with the 22nd pick in the 1997 draft has excelled with the Nationals each of the last two seasons, but it was bumpy from the start. Including the season in 2012, where he played just 81 games, Werth never had more than 58 RBI’s in any of those seasons despite a 20 homer season in his first year in the nation’s capital. The 58 RBI’s in 2011 were third on the team that season behind Danny Espinosa and Michael Morse.
Even though 2012 was a down year for Werth, he still ended it on a great note with the walk-off home run in Game 4 of the NLDS vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. That momentum carried him into 2013 when Werth hit 26 home runs (second on the team behind Ryan Zimmerman) and 79 RBI’s (third on the team).
When you look at 2013 and 2014, Werth’s value was high on the team, when you look at the sabermetrics, Werth’s WAR was above four in each season and was top two for the team in both of those seasons. In 2013, Werth’s 4.9 WAR led the team and was ninth in all of baseball from an offensive standpoint. Plus, he was in the top ten in baseball in on-base percentage during those two seasons.
It remains to be seen what Werth will be like in the final three seasons of his deal, in which he will make $63 million ($21 million per year). Even with those numbers, general manager Mike Rizzo was able to take the first step to relevancy for the franchise by signing Werth and making the right fielder one of the key pieces in their lineup.