Breaking down Jayson Werth's contract

Adam Kilgore
Copyright 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010; 1:41 PM

We now know the full extent of Jayson Werth's seven-year, $126 million contract, thanks to the breakdown first reported in a tweet by the indefatigable Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. According to Rosenthal, Werth will be paid a his $4 million signing bonus between January 2011 and 2012, and the rest of his contract breaks down like this: 2011: $10 million 2012: $13 million 2013: $16 million 2014: $20 million 2015: $21 million 2016: $21 million 2017: $21 million It's a bit curious that the Nationals back-loaded the money, especially considering Ryan Zimmerman's contract is set to expire after the 2013 season, right when Werth starts to make $20 million per season. Stephen Strasburg will be eligible for free agency for the first time after the 2016 season, at which point Werth will be set to bank $21 million. I think the structure of Werth's deal speaks to two things (not counting inflation). First, the Nationals have more flexibility for this season and next, so they can add some more big pieces as they move into what they called "Phase Two" -- no longer trying to build only through scouting and player development. Even with Zimmerman preparing for his next big deal, the Nationals will be able to add another big-ticket free agent soon, or be able to extend a pitcher or first baseman they acquire in a trade. From a broader perspective, the back-end money could speak to the confidence the Lerners and Mike Rizzo have in themselves to build a winning team. No matter what they do this offseason or how well they play, the Nationals are not likely to see a sharp increase in attendance, especially season-ticket numbers. Coming off a 69-win season and the one-year absence of Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals' own revenue will almost certainly not be picking up this year. But if Werth pans out and Zimmerman continues to progress as one of the game's best players and Bryce Harper delivers on his immense potential and Strasburg returns to dominance in 2012 ... well, that sounds like a team that a lot of people will want to come and watch. If the Nationals' development sticks to Rizzo's plan, the winning will produce more revenue, and, perhaps, change the Nationals from a franchise with small-to-mid market sensibilities to a big-market team -- much like the Phillies once they got their new ballpark. You can see the Nationals' thinking not only in the signing of Werth, but also in the details of his contract.

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