The “Lerner’s are cheap” mantra lasted just four days.

Jayson Werth, a late-blooming slugger who helped turn the Philadelphia Phillies into a playoff fixture, has signed a seven-year contract with the Washington Nationals that will pay him $18 million per season.

A few thoughts that are bouncing around my head:

The Nationals vastly overpaid, probably by about three years and $4 million per year. But there is no doubt that top-flight, two-way players will need an incentive to play in Washington for a couple of more years.

This is the fourteenth richest contract in the history of major league baseball.

I’m wondering how Adam Dunn is feeling right now?

I think they announced this deal today, on the eve of the Winter Meetings, to use Werth as bait for the other free agents the team is pursuing.

Matt Holiday got about the same contract last year (it was a little less) and Alfonso Soriano get about the same contract in 2007 (it was a little bit more).

His contract is the third highest of all time for outfielders.

Though Werth is a type-A free agent, the Nationals’ top pick is protected. They will lose their second-round pick.

$13 million per year is for his performance on the field and $4 million per year is for public relations.

In his three years as a starter, Werth has averaged .279/.376/.513 with 32 doubles, 32 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 91 RBI.

I have to believe that the relationship between agent Scott Boras and the Nationals has been strengthened thanks to the last two seasons of negotiations over Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

With two outs and runners in scoring position, Werth hit .240/.400/.425 with 125 RBi in just 339 at-bats. When his team is behind, Werth has batted .279/.358/.493 with a home run every 17 at-bats.

Managers won’t be bringing in right-handers out of the bullpen late in the game against him. Last season, Werth batted .300/.382/.556 against righties and .287/.402/.556 versus lefties (Nationals’ fans went to the bathroom when Dunn faced a lefty).

Werth averages about 50 fewer strikeouts per season than Dunn.

He is successful stealing 88 percent of the time.

He crushes first-pitch fastballs and is just as good with balls down in the zone. Has tremendous patience at the plate and can carry his team for weeks at a time.

His defense is above average but not Gold Glove.

I have little doubt that Josh Willingham will now be packaged in a trade for a quality starting pitcher with Mike Morse taking over full time in left field.

I’ll post more later. If I waited to post this story until I could write something coherently after hearing the news, I would have likely waited for quite some time.

That’s how stunned I am.

Based on the dollars spent, and the length of the contract, I have to believe that this is just the beginning of the Nationals’ moves this winter.


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