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Roster review: Jayson Werth

Oct 14, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

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Age on Opening Day 2016: 36

How acquired: Free agent, Dec. 2010

MLB service time: 12 years, 102 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $21 million

Contract status: Signed for $21 million in 2016, $21 million in 2017, free agent in 2018

2015 stats: 88 G, 378 PA, 51 R, 73 H, 16 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB, 38 BB, 84 SO, .221 AVG, .302 OBP, .384 SLG, .685 OPS, 2 E, -6.7 UZR, -1.6 WAR

2015 analysis: Jayson Werth was already behind the 8-ball when the season began, stuck on the DL while recovering from offseason right shoulder surgery. He pushed himself to return only one week in, and not surprisingly it took him plenty of time to get into full-season mode.

Then came another setback: A May 15 fastball from San Diego’s Odrisamer Despaigne that drilled Werth in the wrist and fractured it. It took 2 1/2 months to return from that injury, and once again it took even longer for Werth to get his swing together. On August 18, his batting average sat at a minuscule .184, his OPS at .531.

A surprising change of roles — up to the leadoff spot — temporarily turned Werth around, and for a couple of weeks he was as productive as any hitter in baseball. But that resurrection was short-lived. And by season’s end, Werth had posted his worst numbers since becoming a full-time big leaguer in 2004.

2016 outlook: From the day he signed his 7-year, $126 million contract, there has been one question looming over Werth: How many good years did he still have in him, and how many years would the Nationals still be paying him after he crossed that threshold? The events of this season certainly leave you wondering if that point of no return has finally come, but we won’t know for certain until we see him back on the field in 2016.

It’s possible Werth’s miserable 2015 was a direct result of injuries. But it would be foolish simply to assume that. He’s going to turn 37 in May, and his decline in power and range in the outfield in particular are a significant concern.

Werth has always been something of a unique ballplayer, a late bloomer who has defied conventions plenty of times during his career. If he can keep himself healthy, perhaps he does have a bounce-back season in him. The Nationals, though, need to start preparing for a fallback plan in case that isn’t the case and Werth’s best days indeed are behind him.

  1. JayB - Oct 14, 2015 at 7:16 AM

    His OF Defense has nothing to due with his injuries. He is a mess these days…can go back on the ball and he is taking bad routes. Move to LF did not cause his cement legs. He is done as an everyday player in the OF. He does not have the numbers or LH bat to play first so it is very likely time to own these sunk costs. and pay him to sit.

    • edbrinkman - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:10 AM

      Absolutely agree. The Nats won’t win the NL East division again with him as an everyday player. Time to eat what is owed him and move on. Maybe some AL team, where he could be a DH, might eat a few million of his contract.

      • veejh - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:37 AM

        No, just give him more rest. Cycle in MAT and/or denDekker to give him rest. His bat is still quite valuable, imho. It’s not his fault he broke his hand and could never get in a groove all year.

      • Joe Seamhead - Oct 14, 2015 at 11:28 AM

        I’m with veejh on this one. at least regarding his bat, but agree that Jayson has not looked good defensively for almost two years.

      • bowdenball - Oct 14, 2015 at 12:20 PM

        Werth is a problem but declarative statements like “we won’t win the NL East again with him as an everyday player are total nonsense. The Mets won the NL East by 7 games with Juan Lagares playing the second-most games in the OF of anyone on their roster and he was flat-out atrocious. There’s many many ways to win a division.

      • lesatcsc - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:52 PM

        I just don’t think he can be plan A in LF entering the season. They need to get someone that can be a productive everyday player so that they’re not sunk when Jayson only plays 85 games or only hits .215, both of which are more probable than not. I think Werth can still be a very valuable player, but you cannot depend on it.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 14, 2015 at 10:04 PM

        Hopefully Jayson will start the season healthy. He’s a hard worker and a leader for the team. He will put his best stuff out on the field and at the plate. Then everyone can evaluate. Till then no one can say otherwise.

  2. alexva6 - Oct 14, 2015 at 7:32 AM

    I think you have to give him the opportunity to see whether he has anything left. In my best case scenario he starts next year leading off and playing LF. But if it’s not there in April and May you have to be ready to pull the plug.

    Worst case scenario he looks bad in spring training and you have make him realize he’s a part time player.

    While his too cool for school act rubs some people the wrong way I have never seem him give away an at bat or dog it. Part of the reason he has earned the right to win his job.

  3. joemktg - Oct 14, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    I’m a bit more bullish on this. I think the comp that applies here is Carlos Beltran, who proved this year that he can contribute at a high level.

    36 is the new 32: Werth’s regimen and discipline will provide him with an opportunity to be a big part of the lineup in 2016.

  4. richardp6 - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    Shave the beard and start over in 2016. He probably is still better than he was in 2015 batting but I am seriously concerned about his range in the outfield. he looks like he already has arthritis when he chases a ball off the wall. He may be better of in the AL as DH but who would pick up that salary? For a team reloading for a World Series run, its getting hard to see him as contributing as much as they will need from that position.

  5. langleyclub - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:40 AM

    JW is no longer an everyday corner OF defensively or offensively. His contract is oppressive ($42 million guaranteed for the next two years). With him, the NatsThe Nats have too many right-handed bats. If the Nats can sign a decent lefthanded OF. Werth’s playing time should be limited to rotation with MAT and the new OF. Bad sign if he hits leadoff in 2016.

    FWIW, think that there is a chance that Werth’s time in DC ends badly (e.g., he doesn’t accept limited PT gracefully and becomes a malcontent).

    The fact is that Werth’s and Ryan Zimmerman’s contracts are an anchor around the neck of this franchise. They have committed $70 million over the next two years to two right handed bats at premium offensive positions (positions where there are productive left handed bats) that are simply not that productive anymore and that are injury prone.

  6. Whack-A-Mule - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:46 AM

    By all means, let us be hopeful that Mr. Werth will be indeed Beltran-esque.
    That will be evident by the All-Star Break.
    Nevertheless, with MAT in the role of 4th outfielder (spelling CF & LF), we need
    a starting center-fielder of Span-calibre.

    Span himself is expensive and risky; but trying to flesh out the outfield on the cheap
    (i.e. pretending that MAT is far enough along to fill Span’s shoes) is asking for more 2015 –
    namely doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.
    So if not Span, someone else of that calibre and accomplishments.

    • langleyclub - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:49 AM

      It would make zero sense to reduce MAT’s playing time and increase Werth’s. MAT is light-years ahead of Werth defensively, and has speed and power. MAT projects to improve again in 2016; Werth is turning 37. The Nats are better team with MAT getting more time than Werth.

    • veejh - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:50 AM

      I say sign someone..preferably a LH bat. Werth, MAT, and denDekker can all take turns next year. 2016 is all MAT with Harper and whomever we sign this off season.

  7. jfmii - Oct 14, 2015 at 10:10 AM

    Werth is a high-level professional hitter whose discipline and situational hitting raises the bar for the other hitters in the lineup. If he is relatively healthy, he will do that in 2016. His defense really is amazingly poor, but his hitting acumen will still add tremendous value starting 120 healthy games. He will absolutely need to be replaced for defensive purposes in many of those games.

    That said, he may very well not be healthy for enough games. Planning for both possibilities is one of Rizzo’s more difficult tasks in the near future.

    • trfwans - Oct 14, 2015 at 11:31 AM

      Werth’s defense is not “amazingly poor.” It’s not even just plain “poor.” He is still learning left field, which many players say is the hardest of the three outfield positions – in particular, reading the ball off the bat. Werth improved noticeably in left field by the end of the season, a fact ignored by people who formed their narrative based on what they saw early on in the season. He’s not “there” yet, but is getting there. The more time he plays there, the better he will be. In particular, actually having a spring training next year will make a big difference. The few times he played right field this year showed that he hasn’t “lost a step” or “has cement legs” or any of that JayB tripe.

    • catcher50 - Oct 18, 2015 at 9:38 PM

      Absolutely right. He is 36 and needs more rest. 120 games starting and maybe 15-20 as the #1 RH PH off of the bench makes all of the sense in the world. den Dekker fills in the other 40 games and finishes off 15 – 20 tight games.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 18, 2015 at 9:54 PM

        This was Werths first time at that position he was getting adjusted. It’s going to be fine.

  8. tcostant - Oct 14, 2015 at 10:18 AM

    Werth’s offseason check list:

    – Stay healthy
    – Drive the speed limit

  9. Whack-A-Mule - Oct 14, 2015 at 10:30 AM

    No one would disagree with MAT’s defensive abilities; huge asset.
    He fits right into the Nats 2015 team concept offensively, however – .229 BA with 158 K’s.

    Desmond – .233 BA with 187 K’s (2nd in NL)
    Ramos – .229 BA
    Werth – .221 BA

    That is fully 50% of the starting position players at .233 or below.

    Rendon (.264) and Zimmerman (.249) were acceptable.

    Only Escobar and Harper performed well.

    Marry that to a non-existent bullpen and a lame bench
    and I am surprised that we scratched out 83 wins.

    We need an outfielder from outside the organization who can perform both
    offensively and defensively. If & when Mr. Taylor can become a major-league
    batter, he will have earned a starting position.
    Until that time, he is a reserve – good solid 4th outfielder.

    • langleyclub - Oct 14, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      That same standard should be applied to Werth, who is not a MLB defensive OF.

    • bowdenball - Oct 14, 2015 at 12:23 PM

      You’re not going to win any baseball arguments in 2015 citing batting average. Take a look at the Astros, who have a postseason game today, and let me know how many of their starters meet your “performed well” criteria.

  10. Doc - Oct 14, 2015 at 11:58 AM

    $42mm for Jdub over the next 2 years.!

    We all knew that decline was coming soon and now it’s here. Werth could still hold some value as a DH in the AL. Pay some of hs contract and get some prospects. Then go out and sign Jayson Hayward.

    • bowdenball - Oct 14, 2015 at 2:13 PM

      Nobody’s sending prospects to us in exchange for Jayson Werth and partial salary coverage. I’m not even sure they’d send us prospects in exchange for Jayson Werth for free. The Nationals will just have to eat this money.

      Thankfully we’re about to shed $40 million to free agency, we have the richest owners in the sport, we have a growing fanbase, here’s no salary cap and we’re nowhere near the luxury tax, so Werth’s salary over the next two years isn’t nearly the problem that everyone seems to think it will be.

  11. adcwonk - Oct 14, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    I think Werth’s stats are heavily skewed because he was played so many games while he was “getting the rust off”.

    To wit:

    Part 1:
    In April/May he played in 27 games before his wrist was broken: in his first 14 games, he batted .154, but in his last 13 games, he batted .265 (last nine games, .313)

    Part 2:
    He came back at the end of July and played 88 more games for the season. In his first 27 games, he batted .189 — but the last 34 games at .252 (OBP of .334)

    While those “after rust” stats are not great, particularly for a corner outfielder, I think it’s even money that with good rest, conditioning, and lots of AB’s in spring training, he can be a pretty solid batter for the Nats next year.

    A guarantee? Of course not.

    As for his defense, well, that’s a different story

  12. Drew - Oct 14, 2015 at 1:11 PM

    Heyward isn’t a great offensive force – his OPS hasn’t topped .800 in the last couple of years.

    But if you couple his offensive production with his very good defense and his ability to steal a base, he’s an attractive, well-rounded player.

    I’d love to add him to the Nats’ OF.

    Oh yeah, there’s that $42 million problem.

    • Doc - Oct 14, 2015 at 1:47 PM

      That pretty much sums it up, Drew.

  13. Susanfaulkner - Oct 14, 2015 at 1:57 PM

    Don’t talk bad about Werth. He will be just fine next year.

    • Section 222 - Oct 14, 2015 at 2:21 PM

      Unfortunately, that’s what lots of folks said last offseason. Hope springs eternal, but I think we need to prepare ourselves for continued mediocre play from Werth. He ain’t gettin’ any younger.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 14, 2015 at 2:44 PM

        Watch your mouth!!

      • therealjohnc - Oct 14, 2015 at 2:58 PM

        To be fair, the reason that lots of folks said that about Werth last year is because he was coming off of an excellent offensive season. His OPS+ in 2014 (136) was easily the best on the Nationals, far ahead of Anthony Rendon’s 127. Over 2013-2014 Werth was not just the best bat on the Nationals, it wasn’t particularly close (Werth’s 153 OPS+ in 2013 was far, far better than Harper’s 133).

        The Nats may well make a move for an OF, but that would have more to do with MAT’s uncertain-tho-promising future and the fact that all the other OF prospects have either stumbled badly (Goodwin; Vettleson) or have excellent upside but are a LONG ways off (Robles). For me it’s not so much a need to replace Werth in 2016, it’s the need to have a plan in place for 2017 (if Werth’s 2016 indicates that 2015 was a permanent decline and not a lost season due to injury) or for 2018 (after Werth’s contract has run its course).

      • Section 222 - Oct 14, 2015 at 3:56 PM

        Your confidence in Jayson is admirable, but many people saw a real decline that all the citation of 2014 stats won’t change. I think we’re much more likely to see an improved MAT than Werth returning to 2014 form. And we better not wait a whole season to do something about it. Yes, he’s rebounded before, but that doesn’t mean it’s likely to happen again. YMMV, and clearly does.

      • therealjohnc - Oct 14, 2015 at 10:03 PM

        I’m not sure who the “confidence” remark was addressed to – either me or Susan. I’m not sure that I have a ton of confidence in Werth, just a realization that we give up on players all the time after bad seasons, and then are astonished when they come back. And while Father Time is undefeated, give Werth an offseason to work on baseball instead of having surgery is a reason to think that he’s going to be a solid (115-125 OPS+) bat even if he never gets anywhere near the marks that he’s put up recently. Michael Taylor has a LONG way to go from his 72 OPS+ debut season to get anywhere near Werth’s mark. All of which is why I’m perfectly OK with it in the unlikely event that Span accepts the QO and the Nats can have MAT come off the bench next season as an injury replacement – and that the Nats routinely swap him in for Werth for defense when they have a lead.

      • Section 222 - Oct 14, 2015 at 11:04 PM

        The confidence remark was aimed at you johnc. Hopefully Werth will work on baseball and trying to hold off Father Time this winter rather than showing off how fast he can drive his fancy cars.

        No need to disparage MAT. No one expected him to have to play 138 games this year. And Father Time is on his side.

        As for Span, we’ve debated this already today at length. Look forward to seeing who turns out to be right.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 19, 2015 at 10:53 AM

        Hey section 222 I just actually read what you wrote in response to johnc what exactly is Werth suppose to drive a Dodge Dart? I’d drive a fancy car if I made that kind of money to.Everyone needs to lay off Jayson especially about the speeding issue sorry he’s not perfect.

      • Section 222 - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:07 AM

        susanf, he can drive whatever he wants, just obey the law. I hope he’s chastened by what happened last year and focuses this off season on being ready for spring training and getting into the “best shape of his life.”

        As for laying off Jayson? Nah. I’m sure he doesn’t care what I think anyway. 🙂

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:13 AM

        He’ll be ready. I’m partial to a certain someone on the Nats as I guess you can tell. I will always come to his defense.

  14. NatsNut - Oct 14, 2015 at 3:02 PM

    I’m not the least bit worried about Werth. He has his ups and downs in a season just like they all do. Sure, his defense is pretty crappy, but we have WAY, WAY more problems than this guy and he can still mash the ball. I say move it along, folks. Nothing to see here.

    • Susanfaulkner - Oct 14, 2015 at 3:06 PM

      Thanks NatsNut!! Somebody agrees with me!!

      • unkyd59 - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:27 PM

        I’m wit’choo, Ladies! Jayson has a good chance of being very productive, and I’m even less worried about Ryan. That said, there should be adequate defenders, who can participate at the plate in the dugout, as well. Both of the vets should sit late in games, when we’re up…. Any chance of Clint improving on defense, at 1b?

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 14, 2015 at 9:34 PM

        I think so. He doesnt have anything to prove.I like what I saw this season. Plus he has the coolest walk up song ever.

  15. jfmii - Oct 14, 2015 at 3:34 PM

    Werth and Desmond have been, since 2012, the heart and soul of this ballclub.

    • npb99 - Oct 14, 2015 at 10:32 PM

      Not this year. I don´t even need to say his name, we know who it was.

  16. philipd763 - Oct 14, 2015 at 3:54 PM

    Keep den Decker around because I think he’s going to be needed in LF.

    • Susanfaulkner - Oct 14, 2015 at 4:13 PM

      Everyone needs to stop being so negative on Werth. He’s still got it just wait and see.

      • npb99 - Oct 14, 2015 at 10:32 PM

        We can ‘wait and see´ but I hope Rizzo plans and prepares.

      • Susanfaulkner - Oct 14, 2015 at 10:40 PM

        Rizzo needs to worry about a new manager. My goodness I’ve only been watching baseball for 5yrs now and I could have made better decisions from my couch. That needs to be addressed first.

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