LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jayson Werth, one of the top free agents on the market this winter, pulled the first huge shock of the offseason by signing with the Washington Nationals.
Washington announced a seven-year deal with the 31-year-old outfielder Sunday afternoon at baseball's Winter Meetings -- which have not yet even officially begun. Werth will get $126 million in the deal, according to several reports.
"He'll be a centerpiece of our ballclub on the field and in the clubhouse," said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.
Werth spent the past four seasons with the Phillies, emerging as an offensive force the last few years after what had been a spotty career up until that point. Most of the speculation surrounding where he might sign this winter centered on the Red Sox.
Instead of joining an immediate contender as a potential final piece, though, Werth chose to become the elder statesman in a Nationals team on the rise but probably a couple of years away from a playoff run. Why would Werth prefer to wait on players like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper to join Ryan Zimmerman in the majors over a chance to slide right into a powerful lineup gunning for a title in Boston or Detroit?
For one thing, said Werth's agent Scott Boras, he already has a championship ring from the 2008 Phillies.
"It's a little bit easier to do that, because of the fact that you've already won and you've already achieved that goal in your career," Boras said. "I think certainly Jayson was open to the idea, with the understanding that there's going to be some growth period with these processes."