In an industry-shocking move, Jayson Werth, who will be entering his age 32 season in 2011, received a seven-year, $126 million deal from the Washington Nationals, which will pay him $18M/year.
While the dollars are certainly more than almost anyone would've expected Werth to get, it's the number of years that's really surprising. However, clearly the Nats felt pressure to get something done in the wake of Adam Dunn taking his big bat to the White Sox (and yes, even though it was never going to happen I am still heartbroken), and once they zeroed in on Werth, had to figure that they'd scare everyone else away by offering seven years to the 31-year-old.
Looking past the contract, what the Nats did do was go out and get an outfielder who's been one of the top 15 hitters in the National League the last three seasons, capping his trifecta of excellence off with a career-high .397 wOBA this past season. Werth's 2010 was worth 5.0 fWAR, or $20 million per Fangraphs. Werth's been worth an average of $21.6 million during the last three seasons, so there's a decent shot the Nationals will get their money's worth for the first few seasons of the pact, but it's probably going to look pretty brutal around the fourth or fifth year of the contract. However, for a team that made a lot of headway in broadening its fanbase (though still has a lot of work to do) with the Stephen Strasburg hoopla and the signing of Bryce Harper, taking a gamble on Werth to get folks to continue to show up to the ballpark is a pretty savvy move.
More importantly, it throws a pretty significant wrench into the Hot Stove League on the eve of the 2010 Winter Meetings. Many observers expected Boston to be all over Werth, and in the aftermath of the Adrian Gonzalez deal perhaps not going through now (although I haven't read official confirmation of its death yet) there will be even more pressure on the Red Sox to reel in at least one big bat if not two to replace Victor Martinez and the possibly departing Adrian Beltre. You have to figure the Sox will be courting Carl Crawford pretty heavily now, although they'll have plenty of competition from the Angels, and perhaps even the Rangers should Texas get shut out on Cliff Lee.
The biggest week of the offseason has already kicked off with a bang, and I can't wait to see who winds up where when the dust settles.