Shortly after the Nationals were eliminated in the National League Division Series for the fourth time in six years, a stunned Jayson Werth, knowing he had probably just played his last game in a Nationals uniform, proclaimed he was proud to call himself a National.
That was over five weeks ago, before the offseason machine began churning, before what seemed like the inevitable conclusion to Werth’s seven-year tenure in Washington was official. The conclusion isn’t official yet, but the Nationals don’t envision fitting Werth into their plans for 2018, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. His days as a National, barring an unexpected development, are over.
Werth, who has said he plans to play in 2018, will celebrate his 39th birthday in May. He is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he batted .226 with a .715 OPS in 70 games. He went 3 for 18 with four walks in the postseason. Defense metrics, including UZR and defensive runs saved, suggest he was one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball.
But Werth’s value went beyond the quantifiable. He helped buoy the Nationals from laughingstock to playoff contender on a $126 million contract that was widely criticized upon its agreement. He didn’t make an all-star team but he has been an integral piece, a leader and a valued clubhouse presence over the past seven seasons. He was one of Bryce Harper’s best friends on the team. The Nationals will rely on other veterans — Max Scherzer, Ryan Zimmerman and others — to fill the off-the-field void as a new manager and coaching staff come on board.
The Nationals all but said goodbye to Werth when they played a tribute video during their regular season finale, though he would play three more games at Nationals Park. He was in left field for all of them. As currently constituted, Adam Eaton will be Washington’s left fielder next season. Michael A. Taylor is the center fielder. Harper will be in right.
Things can change. The Nationals could flip one of their outfielders for help elsewhere as they seek to optimize their chances of breaking through the NLDS ceiling in Harper’s final year before free agency. Werth isn’t expected to be a part of that push.
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