Where were you on December 5, 2010 when the signing heard ’round the Capitol happened?

Jayson Werth in his first year with the Nationals – Photo by Andrew Lang

Where were you on December 5, 2010 when the signing heard ’round the Capitol happened?  I remember where I was when the news broke that the Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year deal that exceeded $125 million.  It was exactly 7-years ago when Nationals fans found out that their team was getting serious about winning.

You have heard this before from Charlie Slowes, “Remember where you are — so you’ll remember where you were”. Charlie would save that message when there was a moment of historic proportions.

“It kind of exemplifies phase #2 of the Washington Nationals’ process,” general manager Mike Rizzo said in a media session after the Werth contract was announced. “Phase #1 was scouting and player development, building the farm system — now it’s the time to go to the second phase and really compete for division titles and championships. We think [Jayson Werth is] going to be a big piece of the puzzle. We certainly have more holes to fill. We had more work to do, and we’re certainly aggressively going on from here and beyond.”

That statement by Mike Rizzo really turned out to be prophetic. If you recall, the Nationals were 2 games over .500 before the All-Star break in 2011 on July 6th. That was the same year that Jim Riggleman walked away and Davey Johnson took over. The following season in 2012 the Nationals won 98 games and won the NL East. Jayson Werth walked-off the St. Louis Cardinals in game 4 of that series in 2012.

Jayson Werth’s Value

Jayson Werth’s fWAR in his first season with the Nationals was +2.3. In 2012, it was an injury filled season for Werth in which he only appeared in 81-games however he was a game-changer in the 2012 post-season as he robbed a home run in St. Louis and then won game 4 on a dramatic walk-off home run for the Nationals to tie up the series with the Cardinals at 2-games each.

Werth’s value really transcended what you saw in the box scores. He was a “change agent” from the second in arrived in the Nationals clubhouse. Fangraphs calculated that Werth’s contract with the Nationals was an “overpay” but not as much as some would think. Werth’s 7-year combined regular season value with the Nationals was $97.6 million which was roughly $14 million a year. The $4 million deficit per season was more than covered with what Werth did off the field.

The acquisition of Werth brought instant credibility to the Nationals. He immediately was credited with changing the clubhouse culinary quality, the clubhouse weight training equipment, and the clubhouse demeanor. Werth even influenced the staffing of medical personnel.  The Nationals went from perennial losers to perennial winners in Werth’s final six seasons in DC. In regards to clubhouse cohesion, Werth was indirectly credited with the addition by subtraction when Nyjer Morgan was traded to the Brewers for Cutter Dykstra days before the 2011 season began. Werth was the constant mentor for the younger players and was often credited for helping players like Michael Morse, Bryce Harper, Roger Bernadina, and so many others.

“Jayson Werth, he’s like a brother to me,” Bryce Harper said after receiving his MVP award after the 2015 season. “[Jayson Werth is] definitely family. I can’t thank him enough for taking me under his wing at the age of 19 and doing everything he could. He’s somebody that I truly love playing with and I’m very excited to be able to get back with him [in 2016 and beyond]. He’s taught me so much about how to approach the game, how to win ballgames, how to play in the postseason, how to play the game the right way every single day. The guy’s been around the game for a long, long time, and I can’t thank him enough for everything he does, if that’s taking me out to dinner, if that’s hanging out with me in the clubhouse or telling me what a pitcher’s doing, his tendencies, all around the game. He knows it. It’s been a lot of fun.”

We can debate the pros and cons of Jayson Werth’s career and the negatives shouldn’t be swept under the rug but keep in mind, Jayson Werth didn’t write his own name on the line-up card to start every game of the 2017 NLDS. His positive impact will be talked about forever in the history of the Washington Nationals. There were often times Werth’s critics would call him out. Much of the criticism Werth received led him to shout out to the haters “Those people can kiss my a**” in one of those J-Dub memorable moments.

Where Do We Go From Here

After the 2017 season, Werth became an unrestricted free agent. He has expressed his desire to continue playing and while Mike Rizzo has left the door open for Werth to return for the 2018 season, it would be complicated to make it work.

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