What’s Werth Worth: Nats Makes Big, If Expensive, Free Agent Splash.

Jayson Werth is good, but is he $127 million good? The Nats seem to think so.

In a move that every general manager except Bill Bavasi (who tweeted that the deal was “just about right”) found utterly baffling, the Washington Nationals signed free agent right-fielder Jayson Werth to a 7-year, $126 million dollar (for those mathematically challenged readers, that’s $18 million per year) contract.

Yes the Nationals have to overspend on free agents because they’ve long been a doormat in the NL East, and yes Jayson Werth is one of the top five players on the market this offseason, but he’s also on the wrong side of 30 and more likely to contend for the WWE Heavyweight Title Belt than an MVP at the tail-end of the contract.

Werth is coming off back-to-back solid seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies (the first two full seasons of his career) in which he averaged 31 HR’s, 92 RBI’s, 17 SB’s and 102 runs (leading to a WAR of 5.2, 8th best in the NL, in 2010). The lanky outfielder is a classic 5-tool player whose combination of power, speed and defense makes him one of the most well-rounded players in the league. No one doubts Werth’s talent, and he’s certainly an upgrade over the Roger Bernadina/Jason Maxwell combo in right field, but he’ll be 32 in May and scouts worry that Werth’s best days may already be behind him. That’s not to say he won’t be productive the next few seasons (though Philadelphia is a hitter friendly park whereas Nationals Park is closer to neutral) but how will he produce in 2015, 2016 or 2017 (assuming the Mayans are wrong) when he’s in his late 30’s and still making $18 million a year?

It’s understandable that the Nationals wanted to make a move to appease their fan base after another dreadful season in 2010 but this contract could be a major albatross for the organization in a few years when Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg develop and the team is ready to challenge for the division. It’s not quite Richie Sexson bad, but Werth’s contract isn’t far off, and it doesn’t make the team much more competitive than they were in 2010.

All the deal really accomplishes is adding to the National(s) deficit. How fitting…


Stephen Strasburg Nothing Short of Scintillating in Major League Debut.

Strasburg dazzled America in his MLB debut.

Finally there’s something worth watching in Washington besides the Baltimore Orioles C-Span.   

In one of the most anticipated debuts in major league history, Nationals’ rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg dominated the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates in route to a 5-2 Washington win.   

The 21-year-old flamethrower struck out 14 Pirates in seven innings (the second most ever in a major league debut) including the last seven batters he faced. Strasburg allowed two runs on four hits, and perhaps most impressive, didn’t walk a single batter.   

Strasburg kept the Pirates guessing all night with a combination of high 90’s fastballs and knee buckling curveballs, showing that he could shutdown major league lineups (albeit, a bad one) as easily as the minor league lineups he subdued during his short Double and Triple-A stints.   

Even with their new pitching stud in tow the Nationals won’t likely be able to contend in a competitive NL East. Still, Strasburg brings a spark to a franchise that has been a punching bag since moving to Washington from Montreal in 2005. With young players like Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond entrenched in the major league lineup, and the recent selection of super prospect Bryce Harper, the Nationals are building a core of players that will allow them to contend for a division title in the next 3-4 years.  

It might just be one start, but Strasburg’s debut could indicate a changing of the guard in the NL East, and his electrifying presence brings hope to a franchise and city that are badly in need.  

And to think, the Mariners could have drafted Strasburg if they had just lost one more game in 2007 (they finished with 101 losses, the Nationals had 102). Of course, when you’ve got Ian Snell and Ryan Rowland-Smith, would the team even have room for him in the starting rotation?  

Slaps forehead…

Washington Nationals Expected to Lose Remaining 100 Games: Bryce Harper to Skip Final Two Years of High School

Based on his raw talent, Harper might have gone #1 in this year's draft.

Based on his raw talent, Harper might have gone #1 in this year's draft.

Just about a week after being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, phenom Bryce Harper drastically altered the 2009 baseball season without so much as picking up a bat or throwing a ball. On Sunday, Harper’s father made an announcement that Bryce would be forgoing his final two years of high school to enter the 2010 MLB Draft. In order to be eligible, Harper plans on attaining a GED and then enrolling at a community college (somewhere in Ohio, Lebron James wonders why he didn’t come up with the same idea). Harper would conceivably be the number one pick of the Washington Nationals, who at 16-45, are the worst team in baseball by nearly 10 games. That would give the Nationals back-to-back number one picks after selecting Stephen Strasburg in last week’s draft, and might finally give Washington baseball fans something to get excited about (other than waiting for the inevitable Elijah Dukes implosion). But with this recent development, and Harper’s once in a generation talent, it might not be long before teams start throwing games like the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2002-03. If any team signs Jose Lima or Denny Neagle as starting pitchers, the battle for inferiority could get ugly.

After reading Tom Verducci’s article in the June 8th Sports Illustrated, it became clear that Harper had little left to prove at the high school levelAs a sophomore Harper hit .626 with 14 HRs, 55 RBI and stole 36 bases; numbers most people would struggle to post in a season of Wiffle Ball against the cast of The Biggest Loser.  At only 16 he already looks like a major leaguer, standing at 6’3″ and weighing 205 lbs, in addition to throwing 96 miles-an-hour and hitting 500+ foot longballs. He draws rave reviews for his defense at catcher and his speed and strength are unheralded for a player his age. Against top international talent in the 16U Pan Am Championships last year, Harper was named MVP after hitting .571 and slugging 1.214. To put it quite simply, Harper is ready for a new challenge.

At only 16, Harper's bat speed has been measured at over 100 mph.

Harper's bat speed has been measured at over 100 mph.

Although he will probably receive criticism for his decision to skip high school, Harper won’t be the first player under 18 to ever sign with a major league team. The majority of these players have been foreign born, so Bryce will be breaking new ground in a sense, but what motivation does he have to play two more years of high school? Talented players from Latin America can sign as soon as they turn 16, the same age that Miguel Cabrera was when the Marlins signed him for over $1 million. Of course that contract will look like a bargain compared to what Harper will receive after being drafted in 2010; his agent is the hellspawn infamous Scott Boras. Harper has nothing to gain by staying in high school, risking injury or plateauing as a player by continuing to compete against inferior talent. His stock will likely never rise higher than it is now, and with Boras asking around $50 million for Strasburg, the question becomes: what ungodly sum of money will Harper receive from the Nationals in 2010? $75 million? $100 million? By making himself eligible for next year’s draft, Bryce Harper puts himself in a position to be set for life…at the age of 17.