Former Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth said he has no idea where Bryce Harper will sign this offseason, but when Harper does, Werth would urge baseball fans not to get too caught up in the size of what figures to be an enormous contract. Werth, who retired in June after a 21-year career, joined former Nationals teammate Kevin Frandsen and co-host Drew Hoffar on the San Francisco-based “KNBR Tonight” radio show Thursday, and Harper’s free agency naturally came up.
Perhaps given his expanded role as the secondary color commentator for Phillies games on SportsRadio 94 WIP this season, Frandsen was hesitant to mention Harper by name when broaching the subject of the outfielder’s impending decision.
“We’re not going to say a name, okay, but a certain individual, would he fit in Citizens Bank [Park]?" Frandsen asked.
“The little furry creature?” Werth replied, perhaps divulging a personal nickname for Harper, his teammate for six years in Washington. “I think he fits in anywhere. I’m not privy to anything that’s going on. Actually, I’ve been up in Canada; I was meeting with an organic farmer up there. Had a good time up there, but I’ve got no clue what’s going on, but I would think that any team would be glad to have him. When it comes down to the money, who cares what he makes? The owners are paying him. Those guys make more money than anybody. Who cares what the salaries are, right? It’s not the players that are making all the money. I think any fan base would welcome him with open arms, especially with the talent and [his] age and everything that comes into it. I’m rooting for him.”
Harper, 26, turned down a 10-year, $300 million offer from the Nationals in late September. He met with a contingent from the Phillies on Saturday in Las Vegas and, while the meeting reportedly went well, it’s unclear whether Philadelphia has made Harper a formal offer. No matter where he signs, Harper is expected to be well compensated for the next decade or so.
In the context of Harper’s free agency, Frandsen asked about the seven-year, $126 million contract Werth signed with the Nationals before the 2011 season. He wondered whether Werth felt that agreeing to such a deal allowed him to relax and focus on playing baseball, rather than being worried about a future contract.
“The little furry creature . . . I feel like since he’s been 15 years old, it’s been for this day,” Frandsen said of Harper. “It’s just going to be released and he’s just going to have fun, maybe?”
“Maybe,” Werth said. “More is more, right? You finally reach your goal. You did it. There’s a sigh of relief, and then it’s like, ‘Okay, now it’s serious.’ Now all the expectations are there."
Werth recalled the time in 2009 that an MLB.com poll of baseball executives and managers named him and then-San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez the most underrated players in the National League. Jimmy Rollins, one of Werth’s Phillies teammates, told him it’s better to be overrated and overpaid than underrated and underpaid.
“You go from one end of the spectrum to the other, but with Bryce, the spotlights have always been on him from a young age,” Werth said. “He is a once-in-a-generation talent. He’s like no other player maybe ever. It’s not an easy thing. It’s not an easy person to be. Not everybody could be it. People ask me all the time, ‘How does he handle it?’ I’m always like, ‘Well, he’s handled it better than you would.’ It’s not an easy thing, and now you’ve got the contract to go with it — potentially; we’ll see what happens. Call me when it happens, because I’m sure I’ll be in the woods or something and have no idea.”
As for Frandsen’s original question, Harper would unquestionably be a good fit in Citizens Bank Park, where the park factors indicate he would hit more home runs than he would playing his home games at Nationals Park.
“It’s a great place to hit,” Werth said in August when asked what he had shared with Harper about his four seasons in Philadelphia. “I’ve always loved hitting here. I’ve shared that, among other things about this place. He’s a dynamic player for sure."
Werth slashed .293/.380/.535 in his career at Citizens Bank Park, while Harper has hit .268/.365/.564 in 179 career at-bats there.
Earlier this week, Werth was spotted at the Capitol with Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the former chairman of the House Agriculture subcommittee on biotechnology, horticulture and research. In addition to his continued involvement in organic farming, he told KNBR that he may soon be peddling bodybuilding supplements for Modus Nutrition.
“Look for me,” Werth said. “I’ll be out there slinging protein powder.”
Read more on the Nationals: