Jayson Werth in a Nationals' uniform.
Didn't see this one coming, did you?
The Nationals' announcement this afternoon that they'd signed the former Phillies' right fielder to a seven-year contract caught more than a few people by surprise. Turns out the ballclub has had this in the works for more than two weeks.
"Ted and Mark Lerner and Mike Rizzo flew to California a few weeks ago and met with Jayson and Scott Boras," manager Jim Riggleman told me a few minutes ago. "Everyone talked about what they wanted out of a deal like this," he said, "and they came to a meeting of the minds."
Werth has been a thorn in the Nats' side the past few seasons, but has always enjoyed hitting at Nationals Park. He'll play right field for the Nats, according to Riggleman, and may play some center "when Nyjer Morgan gets a day off." Jim added that Werth will be a middle-of-the-lineup bat, though exactly what slot is yet to be determined.
Riggleman says the Werth signing makes two statements. "First off," he said, "Mike Rizzo wants the ballclub to get more athletic. Secondly, the fans should know now that the Lerners are serious about competing, and have no issue with spending money."
I asked Riggleman if he thought that, had Adam Dunn known this signing was imminent, did he think Dunn might've stayed. "That's a very good question," he said, "but he and his agent were stuck on getting a four-year deal, and Mike Rizzo had determined that three years was as long as we would offer. It would be interesting to hear Adam's reaction to this deal, though."
An acquaintance of Werth's in the D.C, area told me that Jayson made some noise about playing "more often" in Washington in 2011 the last time the Phils played the Nats, and that he's got great respect for Riggleman. The money can't hurt, either.
The Nats are continuing their quest for a first baseman and a top-of-the-rotation type arm. The Werth signing should send a signal to other free agents that Washington is serious about competing.