The aftermath of the Jayson Werth signing is one of the weirdest things I've ever experienced as a baseball fan. Ken Rosenthal has used the word "insane" in a headline, and an unnamed GM apparently called it "absolutely bat-- crazy" (it's my understanding that he actually said bat-hyphen-hyphen, which suggests to me that it was John Mozeliak.) How often does baseball descend into such outward hostility toward one of its own? Does this ever happen?
I know it didn't happen with the last contract we discussed in yesterday's comments thread that is clearly worse—Ryan Howard's, which hasn't even started yet. Not only did the Phillies agree to pay a 32-year-old $125 million—the first year of the Werth contract is on the house—they did it when he was a 30-year-old.
Since then they've watched their investment put together his worst season as a major leaguer, and while that might seem excessively results-oriented Howard wasn't the kind of asset that ages well; he's a strikeout prone old-player's skills guy who's already a first baseman. It's like buying Pets.com stock in 1998 and agreeing to take control of it in 2001.
Werth is being overpaid here—suggesting he's not by invoking Ryan Howard is like trying to put him in the Hall of Fame by invoking Highpockets Kelly (or more positively, trying to say somebody's nickname is boring by invoking Highpockets Kelly.)
But that Ken Rosenthal and our comments section agree that it's an overpay isn't a sign of stathead inroads into mainstream thought, it's a bizarre coincidence. The Nationals have overvalued Werth relative to his likely future; sportswriters have undervalued Werth's past. Conditions are perfect for Ken Rosenthal and Sandy Alderson to high-five each other at the Winter Meetings. Meanwhile, Ryan Howard, who gets Rosenthal Points for being a team leader, is a year away from starting his contract.
Okay, okay, one more Ryan Howard fact. Adam Dunn's contract, which was itself an overpay, is $4 million less than what the Philadelphia Phillies will pay for Ryan Howard's age 35 and 36 seasons. Adam Dunn has had a higher OPS+ than Ryan Howard each of the last three years. Also, one-fourth of his contract will have elapsed before the contract that Ryan Howard signed last year begins.
It seems like just yesterday we were wondering about Lance Berkman making back his $7 million investment. (For what it's worth, Ryan Howard will be Lance Berkman's age three years into his current contract, at which point he will be making $25 million. When Lance Berkman was 30, he hit .315/.420/.621 with 45 home runs.) But it looks like we'll be joining the Nationals, the Red Sox, and whoever besides the Yankees is in on Cliff Lee starting today—it's Winter Meetings time, and that means John Mozeliak and Albert Pujols's agents have begun talking about talking.
Brendan Ryan trade opportunities figure to be the main attraction in the near term—though what do the Cardinals need, besides a utility infielder? Are they really going to trade the answer in the infield for the answer at backup catcher?—but once that's been exhausted, for better or worse, this offseason becomes all about Albert Pujols, for better or worst.
Wait, wait... For Better or Werth—do you think the New York Post takes unsolicited headline submissions?