In a shocking move, Jayson Werth has signed a 7-year deal with the last place Washington Nationals, snubbing higher-profile teams like the Red Sox. After losing Adam Dunn to the White Sox and star rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg to Tommy John surgery, the Nats needed a seat-filler. Attendance in DC has been pathetic over the years due to a lack of success for the team and very high ticket prices.
In the last two years, the Nats ranked 24th and 23rd place for attendance out of 30 teams. The acquisition of Werth should produce a spike in season ticket plans, not to mention a spike in team batting average and runs scored. The exact terms of the contract have not yet been disclosed, but it is in the area of $126 million dollars.
The real shock is that Werth chose to sign with a last-place team. The Nats are trying to build a winner, but realistically, this will not happen overnight. In fact, their biggest obstacle may be the Phillies who have won the division 4-straight years now. But Werth has his ring already so maybe winning is now lower on his list than money and stability.
As for the Phillies, they now have a huge, gaping hole in right field to be filled. With Domonic Brown leaving Winter Ball early today due to being “tired and sluggish,” big questions remain as to his ability to fill the spot. Worst case scenario is that the left-handed Brown will have to platoon with righty Ben Francisco.
Another right-hander who may be able to platoon with Francisco or even Ross Gload is John Mayberry Jr. In 11 games with the big club in 2010, Mayberry batted .333 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI. He has been working on his stroke in AAA and, if Brown is not ready, Mayberry might be a better option.
There is a list of free agents as well that may also be able to fill the hole. The top choice for Charlie Manuel is probably Matt Diaz. The two men live in the same neighborhood and spend time together in the offseason. Diaz is a lifetime .301 hitter who got little playing time with the Braves last season. However, Diaz did find time to tackle a rouge Phillies fan on the field back in September. He is almost a folk-hero in Philly already after that feat.
A few other options include Jeff Francoeur, Carlos Quentin or Scott Hairston. With a little more creativity, the Phillies may wish to consider former Phillie Aaron Rowand. The Giants have indicated that Rowand is not in their plans going forward and may be willing to eat his huge salary just to get rid of him. Rowand struggled last year at AT&T Park. Perhaps the smaller, friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park can revive his bat?
A few other long-shot free-agents might be Willie Bloomquist, Joe Inglett or Jose Guillen. Whichever way the Phillies decide to go, it is clear that Werth has left very big shoes to fill. He will be missed.