Monday, December 6, 2010

7 and 126?

If those numbers sound familiar, you are not alone. Those are the exact terms to which Barry Zito agreed in 2007, mind you Zito was two years younger and not far removed from winning a Cy Young award. And the mockery both Zito and the Giants have taken for the deal has only been quelled by their overachieving bunch exorcising those demons and bringing home a world championship... it should be noted that they won that title without Zito on the roster.

Werth isn't a terrible player. Neither is Barry Zito. Werth was miscast as a future star before he was ready. Baseball is funny like that, as players drafted straight out high school with hype often disappear into the minor league abyss before reemerging as a completely different player. Werth showed his five-tool abilities in the Blue Jays system, but those teams were clinging to the notion that they were a couple breaks away from competing in the AL East. He was traded to the Dodgers and, for a number of reasons, never emerged as the top 100 prospect they thought they were acquiring. The offensive numbers are somewhat misleading, playing in the NL West, but after a few hundred at bats and no more options, the Dodgers let him go. The Phillies, having just dealt away Bobby Abreu and unconvinced Shane Victorino could be an everyday play, took a chance. Playing in a hitters' park, surrounded by Utley, Howard, and later Ibanez, Jayson Werth has crushed the ball.

Jayson Werth has been a 5-win player through his prime years and probably has 1-2 5 wins seasons in him, assuming his defensive dip last season was just noise. But over the next 7 seasons? It would be foolish to expect Werth to contribute more than 3 wins average per season over the next five, with increased risk of injury. A 7-year contract to a 29 year-old center fielder would be considered foolish, even to a team with the resources of the Yank/Sox. But a 31 year-old corner outfielder? Much like the contract Ryan Howard received, it isn't an albatross until the numbers drop.

I wasn't at the winter meetings, so I have no idea what the large market was for Werth's skill set. Carl Crawford is younger, facing stiffer competition, and probably should have driven the market. Overpaying for Werth now, unless it is a move to gain a competitive advantage acquiring Cliff Lee or Zack Grienke, is absolutely foolish with Crawford available to leverage. The Nats were not going to overpay for Dunn's skillset with the market flush with first basemen.

In closing, Jayson Werth is a very good player. He is not a GREAT player, though. At no time would he have been considered one of the three best players on his own team. The Nationals, however, have committed to him as such for the next seven seasons. It is a dangerous proposition and could be rationalized for a three to five year deal, but not seven... never seven. Just like Barry Zito was a very good pitcher, he was never GREAT.

* Some people may liken this more to Vernon Wells, but to me, this is the only Vernon Wells.

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