What Werth should have said

What Werth should have said
By Paul Reynolds

“I did have a great time in Philadelphia. [But] once you get to a point where you feel unwanted or you get a sense you’re not part of the plans, it’s time to move on. At that point, I was ready to go, and fortunately enough for me, I found a home in Washington”

These were Jayson Werth’s words about the Phillies after he accepted a 7-year, $126 million contract from the Washington Nationals. The free agent outfielder, with all of two years’ full-time experience in the major leagues, 32 years old heading into next season, did not feel his employers wanted him.

The facts are that the Phillies really wanted Werth to stay, and said so publicly on many occasions. They also offered him in the region of $60 million for four years, which wasn’t exactly going all in, but was comparable to other contracts for similar players, such as Jason Bay’s $66 m/4 years from the Mets. The Phillies wanted Werth because he represented right-handed balance in a left-handed lineup. They knew they could not replace either his fielding ability or power with any of the internal candidates or other free agents available. They went over budget in their offer and went to as many years (four) as is reasonable for a player his age.

But Werth’s free agency was never about finding a good professional situation for him; it was about finding the optimal financial one. That’s the only reason players hire Boras, as Werth did this year. While most agents try to strike a balance for their players between desirable location and money, Boras is all about the money. Those players who think likewise gravitate to him. There’s no arguing, he consistently gets more money for his players than other agents.

So Werth did as he was perfectly entitled to do: He chased the money. Earlier this season, he said he looked forward to free agency as something he’d “played his whole career” in order to get to.

But his words afterwards about being “unwanted” and “not part of the plans” are ignorant and silly, and unless Werth has been drinking Boras’ Kool-Aid all year, he knows that. Still, what was the alternative – admit he chased the money?

Well, yes. That would have been fine, and I’ve drafted a press release for Jayson Werth that he might consider:

Dear All,

I love my agent. I mean what’s not to love? All year long the projections for my next contract seemed in the region of 4-5 years at $14-$16 million per year. Now that’s a lot of money – trucks of the stuff, particularly given that I’ve only been a major league regular two and a half years, spent half my career injured and will be 32 next year. But I think I am and will be worth that much.

The Phillies agreed, and gave me a good offer. They obviously wanted me back pretty bad to go over budget, and I know all that money they earmarked for me won’t be going on other players, so I appreciate that gesture. I appreciate the fact they picked me off the scrapheap in 2007, gave me a chance to play every day and really believed in me right from the start, thanks mainly to General Manager Pat Gillick who drafted me originally with the Orioles.

Playing in front of capacity crowds every night in Philadelphia was a blast, winning the World Series was awesome, and the talent level in that clubhouse is as good as any in the league. Hitting behind Utley and Howard was just funny. The number of times I went to the plate with men in scoring position, I couldn’t stop smiling—at least until guys worked out that I couldn’t hit high fastballs, but would keep swinging even when they were well out of the strike zone. That was annoying, and pretty much explains why my average with men in scoring position was the worst in the league.

But this was my shot at a big payday, and I wasn’t going to miss it. I hope you understand – after all, almost all of you would do the same thing. When you get offered – as I was – a contract twice as large as I was likely to find anywhere else, it’s just impossible to turn down.

Boras sold them on my being a centerpiece of their organization, a cornerstone of the lineup in front of Ryan Zimmerman, and a magnet for other top free agents. He also pointed out that because they’re not a contender they’d have to overpay to get me. They didn’t have to offer $60 million more than any other team was going to, but it sure made my decision easy when they did. I can hardly believe my luck!

Sure, I almost certainly won’t win with the Nationals – next year we’ll be bottom of our division again, and if we ever win, it likely won’t be for at least 2-3 years, by which time I’ll be past my best anyway. But I love my agent, and he hit the jackpot for me.

Finally, I’d just like to say that I hope the Dodgers are sorry they let me go for nothing three years ago when I was recovering from my devastating wrist injury. I can’t believe they just let me walk, making no attempt to keep me despite all the promise I’d shown. It was as baffling as it was hurtful.

I did have a great time in Los Angeles. But once you get to a point where you feel unwanted or you get a sense you’re not part of the plans, it’s time to move on. At that point, I was ready to go, and fortunately enough for me, I found a home in Philadelphia.