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The details on Jayson Werth’s new contract with the Nationals

Dec 11, 2010, 12:24 PM EDT

Jayson Werth, Sam Perlozzo AP

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com has the breakdown of Jayson Werth’s seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals. In a nutshell, it’s heavily backloaded.

Werth will get a $4 million signing bonus between January of 2011 and January and 2012 and will earn salaries of $10 million next season, $13 million in 2012, $16 million in 2013, $20 million in 2014 and $21 million from 2015-2017.

As Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com notes, the interesting part is that his salary reaches the $20 million theshold right when Ryan Zimmerman’s current contract is set to expire. Coincidence? There’s still plenty of time to get something worked out, but four years of Werth at $20 million-plus through his mid-to-late 30s would not be a fun parting gift for Nats fans if their franchise player decides to test free agency.

  1. Brian - Dec 11, 2010 at 3:13 PM

    Wow, I didn’t know that contract could get any worse.

    • Adam - Dec 11, 2010 at 3:20 PM

      Are you serious? That’s the best way they could possibly do it. It allows them payroll flexibility throughout the remainder of Zimmerman’s contract, therefore allowing them to get BETTER players and try to win. If they’re not winning Zimmerman’s might not want to stick around, so they’ll have a chance to right the ship before his free agency comes up.

      Sometimes you have to think.

      • D.J. Short - Dec 11, 2010 at 3:28 PM

        Agreed, Adam. Hard to justify the deal, but the structure of the deal gives the Nationals the best chance to compete, at least in the short-term. Still, don’t have a good feeling about this one.

      • Brian - Dec 11, 2010 at 3:34 PM

        You’re kidding right? First of all, in order for your logic to work you have to assume that Jayson Werth is worth that kind of money, which means your thoughts are already flawed. Yes, he’s a good player; I’ve had the past 4 years to watch him. But he’s not the kind of player the Nationals are going to expect him to be. He can’t hit with runners in scoring position, he’s never knocked in 100RBI and he’s 32. He can’t carry a team. He only looks good hitting behind guys like Utley and Howard. And of course when you hit in front of Raul Ibanez you always look good. Still, It is never a good idea to pay 39 year old guy $21 million. He’s in his prime, he’s going to peak QUICKLY and 3 years from now he’ll be the next Aaron Rowand. But he’ll still be laughing all the way home to the tune of $20 mill. Bad move.

        Also, let’s say Zimmerman wants to stick around…with the crazy insane contracts being handed out, you don’t think Ryan’s going to want to get “Jayson Werth” or “Carl Crawford” money? He’s going to want a huge contract, oh, but wait, your financial flexibility is going into Werth’s paycheck. Next thing you know, Zimmerman’s a Yankee and the Nationals remain in the NL East basement.

        And if you think they’re going to right the ship before Zimmerman leaves you’re crazy. They’re going to need to pick up WAY more than Jayson Werth.

      • Brian - Dec 11, 2010 at 3:39 PM

        DJ, they’re not going to compete in the short term. Just not happening. Who else are they going to get in the next three years? You can’t just pick up some players and magically climb out of 100 loss seasons. It takes a few years to become competitive (save for some flashes in the pan) and by that point you’re past that “short term” window. Just overall not a good deal.

    • D.J. Short - Dec 11, 2010 at 3:58 PM

      Don’t disagree with you, Brian. It’s a bad deal. No defending it. But having some flexibility over the next two offseasons will at least give them the ability to add pieces as Strasburg comes back and Harper is ready for the big leagues. Flawed plan? Possibly. But that would appear to be the rationale behind it.

      • Brian - Dec 11, 2010 at 4:02 PM

        If the Nationals had been a middlin’ team who was somewhat in contention up until the last month or so, then I would agree that it’s at least a better plan from the perspective of “short term winning.” What this is really going to give them in the ability to be a “middlin’ team who was somewhat in contention up until the last month or so” for the next 2 or 3 years, at which point it will all fall apart. They gave up a lot for short-term mediocrity.

      • D.J. Short - Dec 11, 2010 at 4:35 PM

        Right. Well I’m of the opinion that they invested in the wrong player. Why not just offer that deal to Carl Crawford and see what happens? Ah, who knows, maybe they did and Crawford’s folks declined.

      • Brian - Dec 11, 2010 at 11:15 PM

        I think Carl Crawford would have put them in a similar situation, though he is a higher impact player than Werth is. But it makes sense they would go for Werth…you don’t have to be a wizard to know that Werth was chasing dollar signs while Crawford was going to be a bit more selective in choosing a new team. They probably would have been better off going a more Jason Bay-ish route and adding lower tier players to get out of the basement then making a big splash to put them over the top.

        On a personal level, I hope he strikes out every time he faces the Phillies. It will be awesome.

  2. bloodysock - Dec 11, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    Werth will end up being the largest unsecured creditor in the Nationals bankruptcy at some point during the back end of that deal.

  3. andrewkw - Dec 11, 2010 at 7:15 PM

    Forgetting the fact that the contract overall is likely a huge overpay. I don’t see why they wouldn’t try and FRONTload this contract? It’s not like this is a case of they need Werth now and don’t care if he’s not worth a penny later because their window to win is closed.

    The Nats are unlikely to compete next year, they might want to in 2012 but are probably still 2 years or more away Zimmerman is also cheap then. I understand why the final year is usually the most as it would effect his salary the following year in arbitration (not that that would happen either), but wouldn’t it make more sense to pay him 20 even 25 million now while they have money to burn that evidently no one, or almost no one will take. Then Werth does well, makes The Nats a better team, more free agents want to come, Werth starts to decline, as does his salary.

    • Adam - Dec 12, 2010 at 6:58 PM

      Back loading the contract makes sense because IF the Nationals can start winning more in the next few years, get Strasburg back and Harper up in the majors. If that happens there’s a good chance they’ll be able to put a good product on the field and start drawing fans. Remember Strasburg’s first couple starts? With excitement in the town they can sell out. Once that happens ownership will be able to justify expanding payroll, allowing them to afford Werth’s contract AND give Zimmerman a contract that will make him happy.

      All the focus on Werth’s weaknesses and you’re missing what he actually provides. 25-30 HR, 85-100 RBI (I know people will scream that he’s never had 100 RBI but he’s a good hitter), 15-20 SB at a very, very good rate, a 380 OBP and a SLG of 500+. He’s basically an older Matt Holliday with a slightly lower OBP. You can win with a guy like that, especially when the first 3 years you only pay him 10, 13 and 16 million dollars.

      The Nationals biggest problem is those 3 years line up nicely with the Phillies window to win it all. In about 3 years, however, the Phillies are going to have an old, expensive lineup that the Nationals will be able to compete with or beat. You never know what you’re going to get with the Braves and the Marlins will be the Marlins.

      Is it the greatest contract in the world? No. Is it the worst contract in the world? No. He has good plate discipline, solid defense, power and runs the bases well. That’s a lot of pluses.

      • Brian - Dec 12, 2010 at 9:07 PM

        How are they going to give Zimmerman the contract he deserves when they’re already giving Werth the world? For your scenario to work the contract would have to be FRONT loaded, not back loaded. Pay Werth NOW, pay Zimmerman LATER. Don’t pay them both at the same time.

        And that IF you keep throwing out there is a huge “if.” Strasburg will not pitch in 2011. And he probably won’t be that effective in 2012. So that’s two years of this magical “win now” window that will be missing one of the big pieces. And Bryce Harper is 3, maybe 4 years from being a true impact player for the Nationals. And by the time they’re reading to be impactful, they’re making a lot more money, in addition to Werth’s $20 million and Zimmerman’s $20 million. So basically they’re going to run out the next couple of seasons with Zimmerman, who may or may not want to test free agency, and Jayson Werth, who will be declining and lost in the spotlight.

        I just don’t see the Nationals growing enough immediately to jump start this kind of growth. Another negative is that they don’t seem to have the kind of savvy management needed to coax a team into contention, as is evidenced by the Jayson Werth contract. Yes, he’s an above average player, but I just can’t get over the feeling that the Nationals are going to expect him to be an elite piece, when he’s just not.

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