It makes too much sense for the Washington Nationals and Jayson Werth to continue their relationship. Here is why Werth should patrol left field in 2018.
Leaving the Philadelphia Phillies for the big money of DC opened eyes around Major League Baseball. The Nats were serious about contending and Werth was the first big piece.
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It may not have been pretty, but his value over the contact has paid off in spades. Now at 38, and if he wants to continue, Washington should do what it can to keep Werth around for one more year.
At the plate, he is off to his best start since 2013. A slash line of .300/.386/.490 is a key part of the most productive offense in team history. Batting second after the Adam Eaton injury, he continues to take pitches, working pitchers hard before they face Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman.
His three stolen bases nearly matches last year’s five in 143 games. His Adjusted OPS+ of 130 is Werth’s best in three years. As a defender, he holds his own; still fast enough to tack down balls with an arm strong enough to make runners think twice.
And, he is having fun. On a team full of leaders, Werth provides insight and stability to younger players. He may not give the teaching advice Murphy dishes out, but when Werth talks others listen.
How the season goes is a factor in how Werth’s future plays out. A championship likely ends his career. After 15 years, and a second ring for him, it is hard to think of a good reason to go through the grind again.
Or, if the Nats fall short, Werth can switch to the American League and transition from outfielder to designated hitter. The offensive skills are there and not playing the field saves wear and tear.
Watching him every game, you know Werth plays the game at full throttle. His passion and fire are present in his eyes. The unshaven face and hair reminiscent of Hollywood’s Forrest Gump at the end of his cross-country run hide the little boy in love with the game trying to win.
A full year with Eaton and money spent on the bullpen gives Werth and Washington expectations next year has great potential. If Werth demands a reasonable salary, there is no reason he should not come back.
The final answer will not come during the season, but here is hoping Werth wants to return and the Nats feel the same.