Jayson Werth admits that his lobbying work on behalf of organic farmers — efforts that earned him a trip to the State of the Union address Tuesday night — are laying the groundwork for life after baseball.
“I can’t play baseball forever,” said Werth, who at various times during the last few seasons might have debated the point, but isn’t doing so now. With a 500-acre organic farm in Illinois and newly established ins on Capitol Hill, the 38-year-old outfielder has a foundation in place on which to build a non-baseball career. He does not believe his baseball career is over and, like so many others in this quiet free agent market, Werth is preparing to play in 2018.
“The offseason’s been fairly normal in a baseball regard,” Werth said. “I’m still training. I’m still doing the same stuff I would do every other year. I’m actually training harder because I know I’m getting older, and the only way to keep up is to work harder, which sucks. It’s been fairly normal, other than I don’t know where I’m playing and it’s almost February — and I’m at the State of the Union.”
Even the most high-profile free agents, even all-stars near their primes, are having trouble finding work. In the absence of actual transactions, those in the industry have had plenty of time to argue explanations for the freeze. Teams are tanking to rebuild. Teams see free agency as a financially inefficient means of player acquisition. Teams are saving money for next year’s loaded free agent class. The list goes on and on.
The real-life consequence of the lack of movement is felt most strongly by players like Werth, who are uncertain of their markets and cannot see them evolve until the bigger names are gone. Rehabbing a shoulder injury, then battling fluky wrist and foot injuries, Werth hit .233 with a .724 OPS in his past three seasons in Washington. He played 143 games in 2016, but no more than 88 in 2015 or 2017. At this point, he is probably best suited to a role as a full-time designated hitter, or a part-time bench player signed as much for clubhouse impact as on-field performance.
The Nationals have little interest in bringing him back, and Werth seems to understand that, too. While he spent most of his time in the D.C. area this winter — his kids go to school here — Werth likely won’t play his home games in D.C. next year. Right now, he is one of the many veteran free agents hoping he has somewhere to play home games at all.
“It’s definitely been an interesting offseason. I haven’t been on the market for seven years,” Werth said. “I’m at the end of my career. I’ve never really been in this situation. It’s a weird market.”