The Nationals introduced Werth on Wednesday. Flanked by general manager Mike Rizzo and Boras, Werth modeled his No. 28 jersey and said he came to D.C. to win. There’s a good chance that won’t happen until 2012, when Strasburg is back, full-bore from Tommy John surgery, or 2013, when Harper will likely be ready to make full use of his offensive skills.
But Werth has time. He says the seven-year commitment was a huge factor in his coming to Washington. Rizzo adds that the full no-trade clause, something he reluctantly included, was another necessary ingredient in the package.
It’s clear that Rizzo and Boras have a strong working relationship, something not every general manager has been able to say over the years. Boras’s ability to pass his thoughts on to Werth didn’t hurt when it came to getting a deal done.
“Admittedly, I had a few nice things to say about a couple of (Nationals) players,” Boras said. “Strasburg, (infielder Danny) Espinosa, and when you have a player in the organization like Bryce — well, this is not a customary draft pick. You have a player who has a chance to be something very special at an early age. A lot of major league players have not been around a player like that.”
But Boras says the decision of a free agent like Werth comes down to his belief in an organization’s commitment to him and to winning.
“You’re going to sit down, look in the owner’s eyes,” Boras said, “and you’re going to say: ‘I’m coming here to have a (winning) group of players around me.’ (You want to hear from ownership) ‘that’s what we want too, because we want to win. We understand what it’s going to take in the National League East to do that.’ ”
Boras and Werth says that’s what they heard from Nationals owner Mark Lerner and his family when they met for negotiations in California.
“I was assured by the Lerner family and by Mike Rizzo that they’re going to take the steps needed to go get those players and fill the roster — not just with anybody, but with the right mix to make the clubhouse a complete place,” Werth said. “That’s one thing that led me to sign here — that they’re on board for winning.”
Lerner, ecstatic about his first high level free-agent signing since purchasing the franchise, was glad to know he was convincing.
“When a man with Jayson’s talent says, ‘I want to be here. This is where I want to make my home. I understand the commitment I’m making and the commitment ownership is making,’ I think it says an awful lot,” Lerner said.
Rizzo said the chance for Werth to become a big fish in a smaller pond than Philadelphia was a selling point.
“His competitive nature really aided us in that,” Rizzo said. “He could be one of the guys in Philadelphia or Boston or he could be the guy here, and I think he wanted to become the man on the Washington Nationals — one of the cornerstones of this organization, along with Ryan (third baseman Zimmerman). With his competitive juices, I think that appealed to him”
Werth and Boras said another selling point was the chance to play at Nationals Park and stay in the NL East.
Werth, a .293 career hitter with a .529 slugging percentage at Philly’s Citizens Bank Park has been a .307 hitter with a .580 slugging percentage (albeit against an inferior pitching staff) in Nationals Park. It’s his third-highest batting average in current NL yards, behind only Atlanta’s Turner Field and Colorado’s Coors Field.
That in mind, Wednesday was a chance for Rizzo to gush over his new right fielder.
“This is the package we were looking for going into the offseason,” Rizzo said. “We wanted to get better-skilled players that play both side of the ball — offensively, defensively, base running.
” We’ve got a guy here who can hit 30-plus homers, drive in 100 runs, play Gold Glove defense, steal you 20 bases, be a leader in the clubhouse and be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. The bigger the game the better he’s played in his career, He’s playoff battle-tested and he brings an edge to the ball club. I’ve seen it, oh, too many times with the Phillies. That’s the type of guy we want and, I think, that’s what separated him as far as the elite free agent candidates.”
Werth, who’ll bat third or fourth, either in front or behind Zimmerman in manager Jim Riggleman’s lineup, went out of his way not to stir negative vibes with his former team, which re-introduced Cliff Lee in a press conference two hours after Werth’s.
“They got their boy back, I guess,” Werth said. “That’s fine. I think that’s good.If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. They make their plays, and we’re going to make ours.”