The Nationals don’t have Jayson Werth in their plans for next season, Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reported earlier this week, “barring an unexpected development.” There had been some rumors that Werth could return to the team on a one-year deal for 2018, a scenario that GM Mike Rizzo “wouldn’t close the door on” in a recent interview, though it seems as though the team is ready to move on.
Werth was limited to just 70 games last season, perhaps emblematic of his overall injury-plagued tenure in Washington. The outfielder played in 808 out of 1134 games over his seven seasons in D.C., missing the equivalent of over two full seasons of action due to a variety of maladies. Despite the injuries and the criticism that often followed Werth in the wake of his seven-year, $126MM free agent deal with the club, Werth was an overall valuable asset when he did play, batting .263/.355/.433 with 109 homers in a Nationals uniform. As Castillo notes, Werth also provided a big boost off the field; Werth’s signing was seen as a pivotal moment in Nationals history as the club began to shape into a contender, and Werth brought a hugely-respected veteran presence into a young clubhouse.
The Nats will use Adam Eaton in Werth’s old left field position, with Michael Taylor becoming the regular center fielder and Bryce Harper holding down right field. Brian Goodwin, Andrew Stevenson, and top prospect Victor Robles all represent additional outfield depth for Washington, and if the team did decide to bring in another veteran outfielder, it would likely be a player with more positional versatility than Werth can provide.
It remains to be seen what kind of market will develop for Werth, 38, as he prepares for his 16th big league season. It should be noted that Werth hit .262/.367/.446 with eight homers over 196 plate appearances prior to suffering a bone bruise and fracture in his left foot in June, and he was likely still bothered by that injury after returning from the DL, given how his numbers fell off down the stretch. Werth could best stay healthy and productive by joining an American League team that can offer DH at-bats, though he joins a long list of DH/first base/corner outfield types on the free agent and trade markets this winter.