Bill Conlin: Werth's a nice player, but c'mon Nationals

Jayson Werth's contract might be the best thing to happen to Carl Crawford.
Jayson Werth's contract might be the best thing to happen to Carl Crawford.
Posted: December 06, 2010

SCOTT BORAS sold the Washington Nationals the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday. Told general manager Mike Rizzo it's a great deal because in a few years the bridge will be carrying auto traffic instead of horses and buggies.

Scott Boras sold the Nationals 1,000 acres of oceanfront property in the Sahara desert. Convinced owner Ted Lerner it's a great deal because Ted's buddy, Al Gore, says in a few hundred years the Mediterranean Sea will be lapping at the edge of the property. Just think of the condo potential.

Boras is the agent for both of major league baseball's last two megabuck, can't-miss, better than Roger Clemens and Babe Ruth, first-round picks. He scored amazing deals for 2009 No. 1, Stephen Strasburg, and 17-year-old seven- or eight-tool phenom Bryce Harper.

And yesterday, Jayson Werth's agent hit the lobby-minglers schmoozing before the first official day of baseball's winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., with the impact of a 10-degree orange-crop freeze.

Jaws dropped so far open they had to sound like a 21-gun salute when the late-afternoon press conference was called announcing the last-place bleeping Washington Nationals had signed the former Phillies rightfielder to a free-agent contract for 7 years and $126 million.

One-hundred-twenty-six-million for 7 years.

That's an average of $18 million a year guaranteed through the year 2018, when Werth will turn 39. He will be 32 May 20.

But Mike Rizzo, apparently a gerontologist in his spare time, said with confidence that Werth's "best years are ahead of him." I immediately thought of Steve Carlton's personal trainer and guru, Gus Hoefling, predicting Lefty would pitch until he was in his 50s.

When I assumed in a column last week that Boras would use Werth to set the 2010 position-player free-agent market, I should have said, "set the 2010 free-agent market on its ear."

Carl Crawford, by far the youngest and most gifted position-player free agent, had to be on his knees somewhere sighing, "Thank you, Jesus . . . "

If a soon-to-be-32 outfielder with a history of wrist injuries that took years to heal can command numbers and length of contract in the range of, yes, absurdity, what will a 29-year-old All-Star with a Sistine Chapel ceiling take to the bank?

The mind boggles . . .

I am a Jayson Werth guy. To a point. That point ends with a contract that goes well beyond the useful shelf life for an athlete who still has gaping holes in his swing and flunked badly in production with runners in scoring position. Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was left at the altar big-time in this one - if he indeed even made a recent offer. RAJ may have been blowing smoke recently when he said 38-year-old leftfielder Raul Ibanez was just as productive offensively last season as Werth. The stats back him to a point. But they don't factor Jayson's other contributions - patience at bat, plus running speed, plus throwing arm and range. He blows Raul away in those areas, and last I looked, National League baseball required a regular to play both sides of the ball.

So now that you've sucked up the extremely bad news that Boras secured a deal from Washington that the Phillies could not match - nor should they have tried - here is the other shoe dropping. And it is a size 20 high-top.

Because Werth signed with the Nationals, deep in the bottom half of the MLB win-lose class, the Phillies no longer will get a first-round draft pick as part of their two-player compensation package for losing a Type A free agent.

By rule, the Phillies will get the Nationals' second-round pick, which will probably be somewhere after 30 first-round selections and an undeterminate number of sandwich-round picks. They will still get a sandwich-round pick, however, probably another selection in the 30s. Draft that low, you better have damn good scouts or a lady with Tarot cards.

This bolt from the cobalt-blue skies over Orlando rates as one of the top shocks in early winter-meetings history. Rather than entice an immediate flurry of oil-sheiks-in-Vegas spending by the stunned lobby-trollers, the Werth signing could induce a mass retraction, a period of "We don't want to go down this road again" conservatism at a time when the economy remains in the tank.

The Phillies were still spinning - or unspinning - Dom Brown's not unexpected Saturday exit from the Dominican Winter League. Brown, expected to be at least Werth's co-successor in right, left Las Americas International with a 2-for-29 tail between his legs. MLB teams normally don't pull players out of a winter league. They get sent home.

Any chance Washington's Werth deal could be part of the government bailout? Just wondering.

Send e-mail to bill1chair@aol.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/conlin.

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