Not Werth-less Afterall: Nationals Make Him Rich

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Just hours after the Sox negotiations with Adrian Gonzalez fell through in disastrous fashion, Jayson Werth poured salt into the wounds and signed a 7-year deal with the Washington Nationals. The Sox were expected to be the top contender for Werth’s services, but apparently the Nationals had other plans. The 31-year old outfielder reportedly was offered a 4-year deal from the Sox, but it was completely trumped by the huge 7-year, $126 millions deal from the nation’s capital. The deal has sent shock waves around the MLB, because at age 31, it is a huge risk to dump tons of money into a slugger who will be in his upper 30’s by the time the deal runs out and it sets a precedent. The deal also ups the ante for Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee and every other major free agent on the market now and in the future.

Each major deal will now be impacted by the current market, as the Adrian Gonzalez contract extension was effected by the Mark Teixeira deal previously. Ironically enough, the Red Sox are the reason Teixeira got the salary and years he did, because they bid-up the New York Yankees to up the ante. This year, Crawford will now expect 8-years at $160 million, which puts the Sox out of the race, because they are unwilling to open their bank account and even less willing to give players the length of contract they deserve. If the Sox can’t lock up Crawford or Adrian Beltre, this will be a lost season for the Fenway faithful because they will not have the offensive fire-power to compete.

The timing of the Werth deal is interesting as well, because it makes me wonder if Theo will change his mind about the contract. Seeing the market value rise significantly and coming to the realization that they the Sox will not get Werth and likely won’t get Crawford puts significant pressure back on the front office. A-Gon is the perfect fit for Boston and he was just moments away from donning the uniform and Werth, although less impressive than Crawford, would have given the Sox more power and both slipped away. The Sox have lost Victor Martinez already and even if they can some how bring back Adrian Beltre, the team is still lacking a real offensive punch in the middle of the lineup. Needless to say, the eve of the MLB winter meetings in Florida has been one of the darkest days in recent Sox memory, leaving the fans to wonder, what’s next?

This off-season as a whole has been a continuation of the roller-coaster 2010 season. It has had some high-highs and some low-lows and overall the Sox are coming out in a worse place than they began. At the end of the regular season, it became apparent that this off-season would be one of the most active and critical periods in recent Sox memory. With the large number of top tier players becoming free agents and the few big names on the market for the Sox to sign, everyone had high hopes that the 2011 version of the club could be spectacular if the Sox were willing to invest in some players. Apparently the Sox didn’t get that memo and decided to not invest significant dollars in critical pieces of the club and as a result, they don’t have a 1st/3rd baseman, a solid top-tier catcher or a complete outfield.

Now is the time for Theo to rethink his approach and bend his budget if he want to be competitive in 2011. The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are going to have no sympathy for the Sox when the lineup can’t produce runs on a consistent basis. I don’t know what is ultimately going to happen and the A-Gon deal is still possible, although seemingly unlikely, but at this point, I don’t see how the Sox are going to be a top tier team next season.