Free-agent outfielder Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals reached a megadeal Sunday, a startling $126 million, seven-year contract that seemed to catch most everyone by surprise at baseball's winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The ballroom where deals are announced wasn’t even set up when agent Scott Boras and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo walked in. So they stood in a corner while workers prepared the lights, podium microphone and Major League Baseball backdrop.
The last-place Nationals acquired Werth, a 31-year-old All-Star right fielder from Philadelphia, just days after slugger Adam Dunn left for the Chicago White Sox.
Werth hit .296 with 27 home runs, an NL-leading 46 doubles, 85 RBI and a career-best 106 runs last season. He parlayed that into a deal astounding for its sheer size – both in terms of dollars and years.
“To just spend money wildly on people is not the point. What we’re going to do is create an atmosphere ... of winning,” Werth said on a conference call.
“I signed here to win, and I believe that we’re going to win. It’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to take some time,” he said.
Boston had been one of the teams interested in Werth, but the day turned out not to be a total loss for the Red Sox as their trade for star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez appeared close to a resolution.
As teams and agents started talking, the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee was set to release its voting results today in the morning. On the ballot for the first time is late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, while former players union boss Marvin Millers is on for the fifth time.
Joining Steinbrenner, who owned the Yankees from 1973 until his death in July, is Billy Martin, who served five stints as manager under the bold and blustery owner. Steinbrenner fired him four times and let him resign once.
Players include Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons and Rusty Staub. Retired Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia general manager Pat Gillick completes the 12-man ballot of the yet-again revamped 16-man committee.