Not Werth It

By BRIAN KOPERSKI (bwkoperski@gmail.com)

(WECK 1230) — The ever-rising monetary landscape of player contracts in Major League Baseball was brilliantly showcased over this past weekend. Just as much as baseball is a game that America loves, it is a business that can be very annoying to both the casual and diehard fan.

More evidence of this occurred Sunday afternoon, when the Washington Nationals signed former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven year contract worth $126 million. Once again, that is $126 million, guaranteed, to Jayson Werth.

In case you aren’t a huge baseball fan, I will let you in on a little secret. That is an insanely steep amount of money to dish out to an outfielder of his caliber.

Yes, Werth is a talented player who has put up All-Star offensive numbers the last three seasons while offering a solid glove in the outfield. However, three seasons does not a contract make. Werth will turn 32 years old next May when he begins his new deal. Already five years past the
magical age of 27, which statistics have shown is usually the pinnacle of a player’s career, Werth could very well continue his stellar play of recent seasons, but the odds of him maintaining such success through even half the contract are very poor.

This also means he will be 39 in the final year of the deal. It’s not too often an outfielder of that age is worthy of $18 million. And just for perspective, that amount alone is nearly half of some teams’ entire payrolls in 2010.

Historically speaking, the deal is ludicrous. It is identical to a contract extension Vernon Wells signed in Toronto in 2006, making it tied for the third highest contract ever given to anoutfielder in MLB history. The Wells contract, now four years in, is often criticized as the worst deal ever given to a position player and should have taught teams a lesson. Wells’ four subsequent after the extension, which just happened to be right after he turned 28, have all been much worse statistically. Needless to say, it’s probably comes as no surprise that J.P. Ricciardi is no longer the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Despite all these factors, it’s hard to argue that Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo wasn’t handcuffed in the negotiation process with super agent Scott Boras. A few days prior, the team lost their best power hitter in Adam Dunn, who signed a four year, $56 million deal with the Chicago White Sox. Washington isn’t exactly the sexiest of destinations among big name free agents as they have been turned down by many top tier free agents in recent years. Plus, the Nats don’t have that little extra amount of capital to spend, unlike teams with seemingly unlimited budgets like the Yankees and Red Sox.

Future ace Stephen Strasburg is already shelved for 2011, and Bryce Harper is still years away, and Mike Rizzo felt the need to make that big splash in the off-season. There may be some hope though, as Washington did “improve” from back-to-back last place finishes in MLB, to sixth-worst in 2010.

Many hockey fans around Buffalo are extremely critical of Tim Connolly and his salary. His
contract is for $9 million over two years. Now, try to imagine you are a Nationals fan in 2013, Jayson Werth hit the proverbial wall, and you’re left with four more years and approximately $72 million remaining. Fan frustration levels would undoubtedly be through the roof! It’s scary to think that this contract can now be used as leverage in future contract negotiations of similar players who may be good, but not quite elite. At least Nationals fans can take comfort in knowing they’ll have one great beard in right field for years to come.

Email: bwkoperski@gmail.com

3 Responses to Not Werth It

  1. Olga Tennis says:

    Most of my stat nerd friends have been berating this contract, but I can understand why the Nats did it.

    The length is the main concern. Jayson will probably not be worth it for the 2nd half of this contract. But, that’s a concession that many teams must give with high-quality FAs. Nats’ ownership has said they are willing to spend from now on, and if they’re serious about that, they need to build a culture of winning and prove they will spend the money.

    There’s foolish ways to show you’ll spend the money (Chris Kelsay, say you’ll pay $10M for a coach then get some scrub nobody in their right mind would hire). I definitely don’t think Werth falls into that category. Since he was signed by PHI, he’s averaged .380 OBP, 30 HR, good speed on the bases and a good-great glove for 3.5 years. That’s elite. Top 5 OF in the league stuff, which I think puts him in the league of Holliday and Bay who earned similar contracts.

    I don’t understand the Connolly comparison. First, baseball doesn’t have a salary cap, so fans really shouldn’t care from a competitive aspect. Are Yankee fans upset that they vastly overpay 1/3 of their aged roster every year? Second, Connolly performed above his contract last year. Third, Werth has no serious injury history. He plays hard. He has a BEARD~! so he goes hard into the corners, or something.

  2. Brian The Intern says:

    Jayson Werth is definitely in the same league as Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. It’s called the National League. You mentioned some of Werth’s numbers there. My intelligent friend Mike astutely pointed out to me that Holliday beats Werth in basically every important category, except home runs, in their three seasons leading up to signing their contracts. Werth receives $6 million more than Holliday over seven years, while being two years older when signing his contract. There are smart ways for the Nationals to build a culture of winning, and there are dumb ways. This leans towards the latter.

    You are correct, MLB does not have a salary cap, but almost all teams still operate their own budgets. $18 million on Werth in 2014 could be used other ways to help the team. Fans should care. I’m not a Yankee fan but I doubt they are HAPPY that Javier Vazquez and A.J. Burnett earned a combined $28 million last season while posting a combined ERA of 5.27.

    As far as the Connolly comparison, I’m not comparing him to Werth’s side by side. Each of their contracts are criticized relative to other players who have similar contracts in their same sport. Connolly performed above his contract last season? Really? 65 points in 73 games I would agree is worthy of $4.5 million today, but he didn’t play above the contract. Especially with the way he disappeared in the playoffs. He is absolutely not earning his $4.5 million a quarter of the way through this season.

    Lastly, it’s not exactly Mark Prior’s history of injuries, but Jayson Werth did miss 60 games in 2005, and the entire 2006 season, as a result of 2 separate wrist injuries. If you miss an entire season, it’s a serious injury.

  3. Glenn says:

    Brian the Intern, you must think Olga Tennis is going to go out with you just because she commented on your post. You are an idiot!!!