On Tuesday, the Washington Nationals announced that they were placing Jayson Werth on the 15-day disabled list, shelving the left fielder who, over the early course of the season, was hitting just .208/.294/.287. According to the organization, the injury is just a bruised wrist, and an MRI showed that there’s no structural damage.
At first glance, this injury looks like no big deal, like the sort of minor injury that all Major League players go through from time to time. A quick glance back at Werth’s recent injury history and his lack of production so far this season, however, makes it feel a little less minor and a little more ominous. Could Jayson Werth be finally nearing the end of his career?
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It’s fair to point out that, due to offseason shoulder surgery, Werth missed all of spring training and was using the first month of the season to get his timing back. It’s also fair to point out that Denard Span, who entered the year under similar circumstances, is hitting .333/.379/.527 over the same period, which puts a rather large dent into that argument.
The fact is that Werth is no longer a spring chicken. He just turned 36, and after July last year, he hit just four home runs while also pulling a vanishing act in the National League Division Series. The surgery to repair his shoulder appears to have failed to restore his ability to hit at all, much less for power. He’s looked even less impressive during his 119 plate appearances in 2015, at times looking completely befuddled by opposing pitchers. Now, he finds himself injured again, and it looks like the temporary lineup of Taylor, Span, and Harper in the outfield may be a much more frequent sight than anticipated at the start of the season.
There’s nothing wrong with having Taylor in left field for the short term. However, moving forward, it’s going to cause an issue. Denard Span is a free agent after the 2015 season. If Werth really is losing his ability at the plate, it’s going to force the Nationals to make tough decisions about what to do with their outfield next season. Werth is under contract through 2017 at $21 million a season and that contract could turn out to be an albatross around their necks come 2016.
Obviously, the Nationals hope that this latest stint on the DL is just a brief detour, and Werth’s early season woes are just an aberration. But, for the moment, it appears Jayson Werth’s skills at the plate are on their last leg and he may no longer be able to effectively do the hardest thing in the galaxy: hit a baseball.