With their new ballpark and their ballyhooed draft picks of the last few years, it's clear that these are new days for the Washington Nationals, who have played like the old Washington Senators since the Expos moved to the nation's capital in 2005.
You know the old saying about the Senators: "Washington: First in war, first in peace, last in the American League."
But with Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and now, Jayson Werth, the National League's Nationals trying to step up with the Phillies and Braves (and someday, the Mets) as a formidable, yearly contender in the NL East. If nothing else, they've sent a message to the Phillies by signing Werth, their former right fielder who was a vital part of their team the last three years, which arguably are the greatest in Phillies history.
The Nats overpaid to get into that club, however. Seven years and $126 million, for Jayson Werth? The 13th-richest contract in baseball history, to Jayson Werth? That's a lot of dough for a 31-year-old decent corner outfielder with power who will be 38 years old and making $18 million in 2017. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro certainly was surprised, saying the Phils made Werth a decent offer a couple of weeks ago. The average value was in a similar ballpark, but not the contract length.
"I think the length was a little surprising but, again, it only takes one team to have that interest," Amaro said, according to Philly.com. "And obviously it was important to the Nats that they add that kind of a bat, especially after having lost Adam Dunn [who signed with the Chicago White Sox]. But, again, I'm glad for Jayson as a person. I think it's great. It's part of the process and we'll have to move on."
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called it a monumental day.
"He'll be a centerpiece of our ballclub on the field and in the clubhouse," Rizzo said, according to the Washington Post. "It kind of exemplifies phase two of the Washington Nationals' process. Phase 1 was a scouting-and-player development, build-the-farm-system type of program. We feel that we're well on our way of doing that. We feel that now, it's the time to go this second phase and really compete for division titles and championships."
And they're building quite a relationship with super-agent Scott Boras. Werth, Strasburg (who is out until 2012 after elbow surgery) and Harper (who won't be ready for the majors for at least another year or two) are all Boras clients. When they're all together in a few years, the NL East should get interesting.
For now, the Nats will take some ribbing. A Pirates blogger pointed out that the seven years and $126 million is exactly the same length and money as Vernon Wells in Toronto and Barry Zito in San Francisco. Ouch.
"It makes some of our contracts look pretty good," new Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said to New York reporters . "That's a long time and a lot of money. I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington."