The Washington Nationals are forever linked with Jayson Werth. Is there a good reason to continue their relationship? There might be room for him again.
As we get closer to Spring Training, Werth remains one of a legion of players unemployed. Although a better fit for a young American League team needing a veteran presence mixed with a part-time corner outfielder and designated hitter, you can see the attraction between the two sides.
Werth’s value comes with his experience. The dictionary definition of a grizzled veteran, he brings stability and leadership. Every step forward and back the last seven years, he was there for. For the role of team captain, you bring him back in a heartbeat.
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But, Werth turns 39 in May. Adam Eaton will fill his spot in left field. Brian Goodwin is the fourth outfielder. Some kid named Victor Robles is expected soon in Washington. If Werth comes back, how much playing time would he expect and who is he taking it from?
It is too early to say his best option is strictly a right-handed pinch hitter. Do not forget, Andrew Stevenson will earn a long look in West Palm Beach if the Nats decide on carrying five outfielders. There is no obvious role on the Nats for Werth.
That does not mean a one-year and cheap deal is a bad idea.
An injury hobbled him for most of the summer. Two years ago, his production was major-league average. A slash line of .244/.335/.417 translated into a 97 OPS+. Add his ability to grind through at-bats and pitch counts and Werth provides value and insurance to Washington.
Is that enough?
Washington is the lone National League club Werth makes sense for. They are a championship contender and he played a key role on every other Nats playoff team. There are bench roles in Milwaukee, Arizona or Colorado that could draw interest, but Washington is home.
If Werth hits the first of March without a job, then yes, what role can the Nats carve out which makes sense to both sides. No question the team and players would welcome him back. The ovations full of Werthquakes at Nats Park are worth it too.
Can he do better elsewhere? Werth’s playing would increase in the AL. The same intangibles Washington loves will fit whatever team he signs with. A team like the Minnesota Twins could use a veteran bump.
It comes down to Werth matching his desires with reality. If it is Washington, welcome him back with open arms. If not, thank him for his massive contribution over the last seven years. He has earned it.