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December 6 Philadelphia Daily News:
“The general manager was asked why on earth he had committed so much more to the Phillies free-agent outfielder than any other team was seemingly willing to spend.
“Price of doing business,” Giants GM Brian Sabean shrugged three springs ago when queried about guaranteeing Aaron Rowand $60 million over 5 years.
This time it was rightfielder Jayson Werth who was lured away from Citizens Bank Park by big bucks, agreeing yesterday to a 7-year deal with the last-place Washington Nationals that will reportedly pay him $126 million.
The price of doing business is apparently going up. But all involved downplayed that aspect of the surprising news that broke on the eve of the official opening of baseball’s winter meetings.
While Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he had made a “significant” offer to keep Werth, the player had a different take on the situation in a conference call with the Washington media.
“It’s something they’re going to have to answer,” he told reporters when asked why the Phillies didn’t re-sign him. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. I did have a great time in Philadelphia. [But] once you get to a point where you feel unwanted or you get a sense you’re not part of the plans, it’s time to move on. At that point, I was ready to go, and fortunately enough for me, I found a home in Washington.”
Superagent Scott Boras, hired by Werth late last season, apparently with just such a windfall in mind, stressed to reporters after the official press conference broke up that the Nationals had done a great job of marketing themselves.
“[Nats GM Mike Rizzo] really did a great job of illustrating his path, his vision to growing this franchise. One, there’s an architect there capable of building the building and secondly, the ownership would support his decision to fund the building,” he said.
Boras compared the decision with a down-and-out Tigers franchise making a large financial commitment to players like Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez, moves that helped make Detroit more of a destination franchise than it had been before.
December 6 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan:
“Jayson Werth is worth $126 million over the next seven years because he has a contract from the Washington Nationals that says he is.
That’s great for Werth, whose signature on that contract is a confession that free agency for him was always about getting the last possible dollar. That’s great for Scott Boras, the agent/hypnotist who manages to persuade Major League Baseball teams to part with wheelbarrows full of money for his clients.
It is not so great for the Phillies, who lose a really good player and key contributor to their superb three-year run as the class of the National League. But it is worse for the Nationals, a dead-on-arrival franchise that is gambling Hall-of-Famer money on a guy who may very well be a product of his place in the Phillies‘ powerful lineup.
You realized the depths of the Nationals’ delusion when general manager Mike Rizzo described Werth as “a centerpiece of our ball club” in announcing the deal. Rizzo can be forgiven, to an extent. This, after all, is a ball club that finally had something to be excited about in Stephen Strasburg, only to see the electrifying rookie pitcher blow out his right elbow and require Tommy John surgery after just 12 major-league starts.
Strasburg may well return to form. Let’s hope so. He seems like a fantastic kid, and it was just awful to see all that promise turn to worry and despair. Besides, the world needs future Yankees and Red Sox and, let’s face it, Phillies.
But the Nationals are not on the radar in the nation’s capital, and they desperately needed to do something. Adam Dunn, their best hitter, just left for a free-agent deal with the White Sox. The Nats were nominally interested in spending what it would take for our old friend Cliff Lee, but the lefthanded ace really does want a chance to win a World Series while getting overpaid for his talents.
What to do if you’re the Nats? Write Jayson Werth an enormous check.
December 6 Philadelphia Daily News:
“Not long after the Phillies had been eliminated from the postseason by the soon-to-be-champion Giants, a man in a business suit approached Jayson Werth outside a conference room at Citizens Bank Park.
The man, an upper-level member of the organization’s business department, extended a hand and spent a few moments extolling the rightfielder’s career with the club. It’s been a pleasure watching you play the last few years, he said, watching you perform, watching you develop, watching you thrive. And, he continued, best of luck in whatever happens next.
This was not an executive with any sort of say in personnel matters, nor with a front-row seat to the types of negotiations that occur when a player such as Werth reaches free agency.
But the exchange was indicative of the mood inside the organization when it came to re-signing the blossoming rightfielder: Say your goodbyes while you can.
The good news, then, is that the end-result of yesterday’s developments – Werth, in case you have not heard, agreed to a 7-year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals – did not catch the Phillies by surprise. Long ago, the front office decided that it would not be able to come close to the type of deal Werth was seeking. And so the Phillies have spent the past several months preparing to fill the gaping void that now exists in that all-important slot behind Ryan Howard in the batting order.
The bad news? No amount of preparation can make up for the production the Phillies lost when Werth chose to take his talents to the Beltway. Over the last 3 years, Werth hit .279 and averaged 29 home runs, 84 RBI, 92 runs and 18 stolen bases while posting an .889 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
Werth struggled with runners in scoring position last season, hitting just .186 (although posting a .353 on-base percentage) and striking out once every 3.3 at-bats (compared with once every 3.8 at-bats overall), facts general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. pointed out publicly. But Werth’s track record points to a 1-year hiccup rather than a worrisome flaw: In 2009, he hit .279 with a .918 OPS with runners in scoring position, and in 2008 he hit .274 with an .837 OPS.
December 6 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin:
“SCOTT BORAS sold the Washington Nationals the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday. Told general manager Mike Rizzo it’s a great deal because in a few years the bridge will be carrying auto traffic instead of horses and buggies.
Scott Boras sold the Nationals 1,000 acres of oceanfront property in the Sahara desert. Convinced owner Ted Lerner it’s a great deal because Ted’s buddy, Al Gore, says in a few hundred years the Mediterranean Sea will be lapping at the edge of the property. Just think of the condo potential.
Boras is the agent for both of major league baseball’s last two megabuck, can’t-miss, better than Roger Clemens and Babe Ruth, first-round picks. He scored amazing deals for 2009 No. 1, Stephen Strasburg, and 17-year-old seven- or eight-tool phenom Bryce Harper.
And yesterday, Jayson Werth’s agent hit the lobby-minglers schmoozing before the first official day of baseball’s winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., with the impact of a 10-degree orange-crop freeze.
Jaws dropped so far open they had to sound like a 21-gun salute when the late-afternoon press conference was called announcing the last-place bleeping Washington Nationals had signed the former Phillies rightfielder to a free-agent contract for 7 years and $126 million.
One-hundred-twenty-six-million for 7 years.
That’s an average of $18 million a year guaranteed through the year 2018, when Werth will turn 39. He will be 32 May 20.
But Mike Rizzo, apparently a gerontologist in his spare time, said with confidence that Werth’s “best years are ahead of him.” I immediately thought of Steve Carlton’s personal trainer and guru, Gus Hoefling, predicting Lefty would pitch until he was in his 50s.
When I assumed in a column last week that Boras would use Werth to set the 2010 position-player free-agent market, I should have said, “set the 2010 free-agent market on its ear.”
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