Washington Nationals introduce Jayson Werth, reveal that his contract has no-trade clause
Wednesday, December 15, 2010; 11:14 PM
On the afternoon of Nov. 18, a sunny day in Orlando, the three most influential decision-makers for the Washington Nationals boarded a private jet for a cross-country flight, straight from the baseball owners meetings. Almost no one, those within the organization included, knew General Manager Mike Rizzo and owners Ted and Mark Lerner were flying to California.
Since buying the Nationals, the Lerners had not once traveled to meet a free agent. The time had come, they believed, to change the course of the franchise. They had to know if they had found the right player to announce their intentions. They were going to see Jayson Werth.
"For a player that important," Mark Lerner said, "you want to seem him face-to-face."
Their meeting led to Werth signing a contract unprecedented in Washington for its length, its size and its stipulations, and it culminated in Wednesday's unveiling of Werth in a news conference at Nationals Park. Werth - sporting a soul patch instead of his trademark beard - sat between Rizzo and his agent, Scott Boras. He relished the security of his seven-year, $126 million contract - which, Boras revealed, includes a full no-trade clause - and expressed his conviction the Nationals will become a contender.
"In the course of time, people are going to see the Washington Nationals are for real," Werth said. "We're going to play the style of baseball that is going to bring championships to this city."
Werth based his enthusiasm on his initial meeting with Rizzo and the Lerners on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, in Boras's offices. Werth explained his outlook on the sport. Rizzo outlined his plan for the Nationals' future success. Ted Lerner told his life story. Mark Lerner made assurances about the team's commitment to winning and procuring more quality players.
Afterward, Rizzo and the Lerners discussed the meeting outside. As a player, Rizzo already believed Werth was "the package that we were looking for going into the offseason" - an above-average defensive outfielder who could run and hit for power. As a person, the Lerners had been convinced. That day, in the parking lot, they decided Werth would be their first free-agent statement.
"We were blown away by this young man," Lerner said. "His questions and his intensity and his competitiveness and the way he talked about nutrition and fitness - he's just the kind of guy you want around the ball club."
In order to make Werth a National, they had to make a rare concession. During Stan Kasten's tenure as team president, the Nationals never handed out a no-trade clause. During negotiations, Werth insisted on one. Werth and his wife are currently house hunting. They're not buying a second home in Washington. They're buying a home, period. For Werth, that was crucial.
"One thing people don't realize is, from season to season, if you do have a family and kids, it's really tough to have normalcy," Werth said. "That was one thing I was able to obtain here. The length of contract was very important. A million things go into it, but one thing I think was very important was the length."
For the Nationals, the clause could become troublesome in future negotiations. Some teams have a strict policy against them, which the Nationals can no longer claim. Rizzo made clear, though, that he will not make a habit of handing them out.
"It was very difficult, one of the last sticking points that we had," Rizzo said. "I'd rather not have a no-trade clause, because it's another impediment to roster construction. I would term it that way. A no-trade clause gives the players more control. That's why we're reluctant to do it. It's something that for an elite free agent like this, I thought I would relent on it. Because we had to do it to get the player."