Sunday former Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth signed a seven year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals. Monday, Werth is already receiving criticism for not only signing with a rival team, but also for going to a non-contendor.
$126 million isn't too shabby for a player who is already 32 years old. Werth faced a long struggle last year hitting with runners in scoring position. However he brings speed, a strong arm, great glove, and a hot bat to a team who has finished last in the National League East the past 6 of the last 7 seasons (including when the club was still in Montreal).
Washington is going through an obvious rebuilding process within the organization. With the top draft pick in the MLB draft the past two seasons, the club has been able to pick up two outstanding young phenoms in Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The team also has decided to part ways with catcher Will Nieves with the signing of Jesus Flores.
Strasburg is expected to miss this season as he is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should be back alongside of Bryce Harper in 2012. The team should also receive a high draft pick again this year and should be able to add even more young talent to the club.
With Adam Dunn also leaving the team, watch for Werth to be put in the 3 or 4 spot in the lineup, a position where he will be able to utilize his speed, power, and run producing abilities. Even if Werth hits 50 homeruns, drives in 150 runs, and steals 40 bases, don't expect Washington to make a run at the Division title just yet. Bryce Harper should make his major league debut about halfway through this season if everything goes as planned which will add another power source and player who can drive in runs. Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond also should compliment Werth and Harper by driving in runs as well.
Offense is not the only key to the Nationals success. If Strasburg returns in 2012 and continues to dominate hitters as he did in his rookie season, he should become the number one man in the rotation and has the potential to win 20 games a year. Livan Hernandez led the team with 211.2 innings pitched this season, finishing with a record of 10-12. Hernandez's record does not reflect the quality of his pitching. His posted a 3.66 ERA with 114 strikeouts. Lack of offense plagued the 35 year old pitcher. John Lannan also had a productive season and should be able to have even more success this season if the offense picks up. The team also had 14 different pitchers start a game this season. If the team has a core of starting pitchers, and a core offense, they should be able to make some noise in the division and could make a run in the division in the next few years.
So Phillies fans, don't throw Werth totally under the bus. While he is not with a contender now, the Nationals could be a contender in the next few years.