My musings about Jayson Werth and video from CSNPhilly.com.
Beerleaguer: From a public relations standpoint, the Nationals picked a lousy time for a blockbuster deal: a football Sunday, a day when national baseball writers were checking into their hotels for the Winter Meetings and at almost the same moment as Adrien Gonzalez became a reality for the Red Sox following 24 hours of drama. A day later, it’s being swept under the rug by people wondering what the Yankees will do and where Cliff Lee will go.
The prevailing wisdom says that Washington made a splash for the sake of making a splash. Werth’s seven-year, $126 deal is the third-largest in history among outfielders. It’s the kind of deal teams make to secure the final piece to the puzzle. Unfortunately, the Nats are still rife with question marks. They’re banking on young talent like Bryce Harper to meet lofty expectations and for the surgically repaired right arm of Stephen Strasburg to anchor the rotation starting in 2012 at the earliest. Even if the Nationals secure another impact free agent – like a Carlos Pena – there’s still a lot of moving parts.
Still, it’s a young team on the rise and one that could be reckoned with in short order. Can the Phillies confidently say the same? How about the Red Sox or Yankees? It’s hard to say. Werth’s timing couldn’t have been better to hit paydirt. He represented one of the few impact bats on the market and also brings the best all-around tools of any free agent. By most measures, he’s evolved into a top 3 National League outfielder, right there alongside fellow Scott Boras client Matt Holliday, who set the benchmark for this deal.
The Phillies did right by Werth, and Werth did right by the Phils. Pat Gillick, who was named to the Hall of Fame today, saw his potential and took a chance on him when a debilitating wrist injury made him expendable to the Dodgers. He finally got his shot at regular playing time in 2008, signed an extension in the offseason that ate into a year of free agency. He evolved into arguably the Phillies’ best run producer over those last two years, and the Phillies’ most consistent hitter over the last two postseasons. His .296/.388/.532, 27 homers, speed and defense will be extremely difficult to replace.
Fortunately for Ruben Amaro Jr., who has avoided these situations to date by signing marquee players to long-term extensions, several factors are working in his favor, aside from smelling like roses after Washington blew everyone away by going seven years. He’s sitting on a dynamic, exciting prospect in Domonic Brown. He’s got decent platoon options in Ben Francisco and Ross Gload. And from the looks of it, he’s got some money to spend, more than enough to entice someone like Matt Diaz to join up. Diaz is looking more attractive by the minute. Finally, the Phillies are a 97-game winner built around dominant starting pitching, one that essentially allowed the offense to take the season off.