As the Nationals go about their business on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, executives around baseball are still buzzing about what they did just before the proceedings got started.
The seven-year, $126 million contract they gave outfielder Jayson Werth has been met with disbelief and derision from people around baseball, with one executive reportedly saying the team was "bidding against thin air" to offer Werth that much money. While some GMs are undoubtedly frustrated about what Werth's deal does to the market, others simply don't understand the move.
Some of those reports have reached Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, and he intimated again this afternoon that the Nationals wouldn't have given Werth so much money, over so many years, if they were a better team. But he also doesn't agree that he made a mistake by doing it.
"I've had some feedback from some people who read certain things," Rizzo said. "But there's no negative reaction from me. I'm satisfied with the deal. I'm glad we got Jayson Werth. I can understand some of the comments, but we're taking care of ourselves. We're trying to build something special here, and we thought this player exemplified what we're trying to do. I don't apologize for Jayson Werth. We're a better ballclub today than we were yesterday without him."
Manager Jim Riggleman said Werth's spot in the lineup will be dictated by what the Nationals do with their first base opening, but Rizzo sees Werth in the middle of the Nationals' order. More pointedly, he said Werth could be a corner outfielder through the end of his seven-year deal, when he'll be 38.
"I see Jayson Werth, toward the end and at the end of his contract, being able to play one of the corner outfield positions," Rizzo said. "He's a terrific athlete, keeps himself in great physical condition, and from some of the left fielders I've seen in the American League and the National League, this guy, at 38 years old, can certainly play left field for me in this league."