The struggles of the 2013 Washington Nationals have been well documented, probably more so than the positives from the 2013 season. One of the major positives was Jayson Werth‘s season, especially since it was an age-34 season for an outfielder many saw and still see as majorly overpaid.
Last season, however, it was hard to argue the Nationals did not get their money’s worth, as Werth posted a solid .318/.398/.532 slash line with 25 home runs and 82 RBIs. What was even more impressive was that Werth played in only 129 games and spent time on the disabled list twice in 2013.
At the time of the signing, back in 2010, Werth was a 31 and soon-to-be 32-year old right fielder coming off of a .296/.388/.532 season with 27 home runs and 85 RBIs. Werth had set a career-high in doubles with 46, and was definitely set up for some sort of pay day. Of course, nobody saw the Nationals offer of seven years and $126 million coming, but that was the pay day Werth ended up getting.
The contract was without a doubt an overpay, but when a team is as bad as consistently as the Nationals had been over the course of their short history, and even in their time in Montreal, they had no choice but to overpay.
In 2013, there is no doubt the Nationals were happy they were able to sign Werth to the contract they did. Since his dismal 2011, which was mostly due to injuries, and a 2012 where he hit considerably better but was injured, Werth is definitely now trending upward going into 2014. The question is, how far upward is Werth trending, and what is a logical expectation for Werth’s 2014 season?
Werth turns 35 in May, so it would be unfair to assume he could repeat verbatim what he did in 2013, even though he is most likely fully healthy this season. The real key is where Werth hits in the lineup, as he has been somewhat shuttled around since coming to the Nationals. He has led off, hit second, fifth and sixth in the Nationals lineup.
Over his career, Werth has the most offensive production from the fifth spot with 69 career home runs from that spot and a .283/.376/.511 slash line. However, when Werth bats clean up, he has a very impressive .328/.420/.576 slash line with only 16 home runs.
To expect Werth to recreate what he did in 2013 would be unfair. Of course, with a fully healthy lineup and a manager who will want to be more aggressive, there is a high chance Werth is able to return to form in a consistent manner. At the end of the day, that is really all the Nationals and their fans want: a more consistent, dependable Werth.
Werth may never live up to his contract, but what he can do is at least provide consistent value in the next four seasons he is under contract for. Here is my prediction for Werth’s 2014 numbers: .291/.377/.521 with 26 home runs and 90 RBIs.