Many did not understand why the Washington Nationals gave Jayson Werth a seven-year, $126 million deal before the 2011 season. Werth was coming off some strong years with the Philadelphia Phillies but was still considered by many a what could have been player. Most believed injuries would once again catch up to him.
What GM Mike Rizzo knew he was getting was a veteran player who has been on a championship caliber team and won a World Series that would bring leadership and savvy the Nationals lacked greatly. The on-field production was expected, but he was not expected to carry the team, as he would complement guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper once he arrived, among others. Well, year one was a throw away year, as Werth had no protection and he had thrived when given protection, both in Philadelphia and now. Year two, Werth was hurt, but gave every indication he would return to his career norms.
This season, Werth has been a house on fire, leading the NL with a .534 Slugging Percentage and a .932 OPS this season. He has carried Washington offensively the past few months, leading the team in batting average (.324) and home runs (22), respectively. Werth is finally set in the middle of the lineup around hitters that can get on base in front of him, and he has shown his proficiency for working counts, fouling off pitches and getting himself a pitch to drive. Needless to say, he has been “Werth” the money, at least this season.
The key to Werth as a player is that he really does not have a lot of “mileage” on his body, at least he did not have as much as a normal 31 year-old hitting the free agent market. Werth had a lot of short seasons due to injuries, ineffectiveness, players being in front of him, etc. When Werth made it to Philadelphia, his career high in games played was 102. Werth was somewhat of a late bloomer as a player, which is why he was so good with the Phillies and why Washington gave him the long contract.
By no means will Werth hit .330 for the remainder of his contract, but this is just the beginning; as long as he stays healthy, Werth is on his way to showing critics exactly why Rizzo gave him the contract he did. Werth is a late bloomer, and still has a couple, if not more, good years ahead of him.