Reflecting on Werth with the Nats and where he might be next season

A few days have passed since the difficult Game 5 National League Division Series loss and reflection continues on the impact of left fielder Jayson Werth and whether or not 2017 was his final year in a Nationals uniform.

Werth played seven seasons with the Nats from 2011-2017, the longest tenure for him with one team in his career. The Nats won 95 or more games in four of those seasons. In his first season with the Nats, the win total jumped from 69 to 80. That was the only season the Nats (80-81) finished under .500 when Werth was with the club.

He had played four seasons with the Phillies from 2007-2010. He was with the Blue Jays in 2002-2003 and with the Dodgers in 2004-2005.

General manager Mike Rizzo spoke about Werth’s seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals and its importance to the franchise.

jayson-werth-bummed-white.png“We had our reasons and rationale and strategies for signing Jayson,” Rizzo said during the NLDS. “He’s meant everything to us that we expected of him. He’s really exceeded our expectations, not only with his performance on the field but with what he’s meant in the clubhouse - between the lines, but in the clubhouse and the community. He’s a guy who knew how to win, and showed a young organization what it takes to be a championship-caliber organization. The proof is in the pudding. He’s been a great addition to us, a great player for us. As far as what other people say about it, that could not concern me less.”

Case in point: During the NLDS, Werth spent part of his time teaching young Nationals outfielders his strategy for running the bases.

So it came as no surprise that after Game 5 ended in a loss, first baseman and clubhouse neighbor Ryan Zimmerman reflected positively on Werth’s time with the Nats.

“Obviously, Jayson has done a ton for this organization, for this city,” Zimmerman said. “So, yeah, you’d love to see things happen perfectly at the end. Unfortunately, that’s not always the way it happens. I don’t think that should take anything away from what he’s done for a lot of people here. It’s been a fun ride with him.”

One of the players that followed Werth’s guidance and worked with him on the field was center fielder and NLDS offensive hero Michael A. Taylor.

“It was great. A guy that loves to win,” Taylor said of Werth. “Great leader. Came out every day and played hard. Just a great guy for our ball club.”

And to Taylor’s left and across the outfield from Werth was 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper, who celebrated his 25th birthday yesterday. With Harper growing out his beard and then his hair for the postseason, one could almost say he started to look a bit like his mentor. Harper had some very nice things to say about the importance of Werth to his maturation as a player.

“Definitely, pretty sad about that,” Harper said on the possibility of Thursday’s game being Werth’s last as a Nat. “Not sure if he’s going to come back next year or not. It’s been a pleasure playing with him. One of the guys I’ve grown up with the past six, seven years. He’s always been there for me, no matter what. Going miss seeing him out there.”

When things did not go well with previous manager Matt Williams, it was Werth who stood up and endorsed the hiring of Dusty Baker. All throughout the final weeks of the season, Werth made it clear he wanted to win the World Series for Baker and his legacy. So it was sad in a couple of ways when the season ended with the loss to the Cubs.

What is the future for Werth? Is there a way to get him signed in a different type of role for the Nats? Could he become a utility player? Or will he be a designated hitter next season in the American League? Was Oct. 12 the last game in the major leagues for the 38-year-old outfielder?

“This one’s tough. I love these guys, I love this team,” Werth said after Game 5. “To think that it’s over right now is tough to swallow. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished here, obviously. This place has come a long way in seven years. No regrets. We gave it all we had. I know I gave everything I had, left it all out there. I’m proud to call myself a National. Before I came here, I don’t know if anybody would’ve said that. Even so, this one’s tough to take. We had opportunities and you just still think, man, you can’t believe it’s over.”

This offseason will be especially interesting for the talented Nats to see where the roster stands next opening day, and where longtime leader Werth will be next season. There are very few openings on the roster, but there could definitely be a change in that left field spot.

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