The Washington Nationals left fielder enters 2017 at the end of his contract and a new spot in the order. What will Jayson Werth do this year?
As his somewhat controversial seven-year contract ends whenever the Nats finish 2017, Werth finds himself with several unanswered questions for the months ahead.
With the Nats where will he hit in the lineup?
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Last year, he protected Bryce Harper out of the two-hole, hitting behind Trea Turner the second half of the season. A strikeout risk, fanning 139 times in 2016, his eye can still draw walks. Werth earned 71 free passes last season and earned an on-base percentage of .335. That is a productive season.
His Adjusted OPS+ of 99 makes him, at 37, an average player.
Yet, he will lose his spot in the batting order to Adam Eaton. Matched with Turner, the pair will give National League pitcher’s fits as they dance off first base, a threat to swipe second. Does Werth move down to sixth behind Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, or will he flip with Rendon at fifth?
Spring Training will partially answer that. Real baseball will finish it. A nice dilemma to have.
If he stays healthy, a player at his age giving league-average production is a bonus. In his seventh season in DC, Werth is holding his end of the bargain.
For Werth, where does his career go from here?
A good 2017 will see the Nats show interest in extending Werth, but for nowhere near the $21 million he is on the books for. If he feels he has something to prove, and the Nats miss out again in the playoffs, then you can see him staying one more year for the ring.
His experience, ability to hit home runs and desire to play baseball could see him go anywhere. With an American League team, he can switch between the outfield and designated hitter, extending his career maybe another year or two, if he wants to leave.
Or, Washington wins everything this year and Werth retires a champion. He would not be the first to ride off into the sunset with a ring and parade, nor the last.
When healthy, he is a vital part of the Nats in every respect, a veteran leader who plays prepared. As the focus shifts to Harper and Stephen Strasburg living up to their deals, Werth has the opportunity to start the year quietly and set his pace.
He has earned the right.