Even before he donned their uniform, the Washington Nationals were widely criticized for their acquisition of Jayson Werth. Why would a team of such low caliber like Washington give $126 million over seven years to a 31-year-old outfielder with a history of injuries like Werth? Because he is a World Series champ who had spent years on a winning team with the ability to lead by example, that’s why. Washington gave him that opportunity, and of course they overpaid for him because of how bad they were at the time they signed him.
Upon his first spring training arrival, Werth’s presence was already felt, as he got into a small spat with Nyjer Morgan when he felt Morgan was not hustling during spring training drills. Morgan felt as though Werth had no right to say anything because he was the new guy. Morgan, as he is most of the time, was wrong and found himself with the Milwaukee Brewers later that spring. As we know, with all the injuries Washington had in 2011 combined with Werth finding himself in a new city with a new team, it was a struggle for Werth as he finished with a .232 average and 20 home runs, his lowest totals since 2003.
2012 was markedly different, as Werth was off to a great start until he broke his wrist and had surgery. Werth missed half the season, but when he returned he was the National League East Champions’ leadoff hitter, batted .300 from that spot and did everything the Nationals expected he would when they signed him. He worked counts, got on base and set things up for the hitters behind him. Werth picked up where he left off in 2013, being Washington’s most reliable hitter in an otherwise down season, batting .318/.398/.532 with 25 home runs and 82 RBIs.
Now in 2014, Werth is really making the Nationals look smart. Thus far he is slashing .308/.410/.538 with three home runs and eleven RBIs. This is all at the ripe old age of 35, where Werth has been the Nationals’ most reliable hitter early on with clutch hits when Washington needed them. Last night was a prime example; after the Miami Marlins had a few shaky plays in the field leaving Nationals on the bases, Werth came up and cranked a home run, thus tying the game and being the catalyst of Washington’s victory.
The Nationals were heavily criticized for giving Werth the deal they did, especially since it was back-loaded. This season, Werth is going to make $20 million and then $21 million annually from 2015-2017. Last year, in Werth’s best season since signing, he made $16 million, which is of course nothing short of coincidence but still pretty telling. When people look back at what the Nationals spent on Werth, they are going to laud the deal because for the production they got in 2013, and even when he played in 2012, Werth definitely would have gotten $20 million a year on the open market. Werth’s presence goes far beyond what he does in the batter’s box, but even in it, Washington is getting their money’s worth.