Posted by Andy on September 1, 2011
Jayson Werth became a free agent at just the right time. Over 2008-2010, he posted a 132 OPS+ despite averaging only 29 2B, 29 HR and 84 RBI. He did this largely by batting 5th or 6th behind productive hitters in the Phillies' lineup and by hitting reasonably well (plus walking a lot.) He did well in his role. Then, he became a free agent at age 31 in a year when there weren't a lot of other big-name bats on the market.
Somehow, the Nationals got fooled into thinking that this guy would make a good #3 hitter. This was despite the fact that he's on the wrong side of 30 and generated numbers helped significantly by the team on which he played.
Lo and behold, almost one year into the 7-year, $126 million contract, Werth's OPS+ sits at 98 and he may not crack 20 HR or 60 RBI while potentially setting a career-high in strikeouts. Oops.
Here are rightfielders since 2001 to qualify for the batting title with an OPS+ between 97 and 99:
Which of these guys would you give $126 million to?
Tim Salmon is actually a pretty good comparison for Werth. They were the same age when having the season in question, and for the 3 seasons previous, Salmon had a 133 OPS+, 29 2B, 26 HR, and 85 RBI per season. Those numbers are all nearly identical to what Werth did in his 3 seasons previous.
Well, Salmon turned around in 2002 and 2003 to post 2 more good seasons. Yes, his power continued to diminish, but he hit more doubles and kept on walking.
If Werth reverts in 2012 to his 2008-2010 form, he'll be a decent enough player for the Nats. But there's no way he has 6 years of such productivity left, and no way he can hit 3rd for them. It's sad to watch an organization throw away so much money for someone who could be a good piece, but not a centerpiece.