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Posted at 1:22 PM ET, 12/11/2010

Breaking down Jayson Werth's contract

By Adam Kilgore

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.

By Adam Kilgore  | December 11, 2010; 1:22 PM ET
 
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Comments

My only concern with the Werth deal was that the money might constrain the Nats in the future but it looks like they see it as part of a rising tide. Great column by Boz about the Crawford deal with the Red Sox. No wonder they are PO'd, sounds like they got a round peg for the Fenway sqare hole. Read the ESPN story about the Crawford signing -- makes no mention of the Werth deal of Crawford's mismatched skill set for Boston. Looking forward to seeing Werth in a Nat's uniform.

Posted by: Natmeister | December 11, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Interesting analysis. I would hope that if the team plays better, there might be some uptick in attendance this year, but clearly it will take awhile for success to translate to significantly increased seats in seats at the park. The owners have also alienated their STH base, and it may take awhile for that to be erased too. The Werth signing was a definite start, but they need to get a 1B and hopefully some SP too for 2011!

Posted by: NatsFly | December 11, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I think what this contract really reflects is that the Lerners are shrewd businessmen. In financial accounting, future expenditures are discounted. This reflects both inflation and the fact that the money can be used to earn interest during the elapsed time period. As a result, once the total dollar value was agreed upon, it was in the Nats interest to delay the expenditure as long as possible. The agreed-upon contract structure is more favorable for the Nats than a simple $18 million/season.

Posted by: none57 | December 11, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

>'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.'

That sounds more like an advertisement than an analysis. What's all this bs about the Lerners having more flexibility because they're paying Werth less in the front end of the contract? What, they don't have the money or something? They're broke? I don't get it. They could be the Yankees times two and not even leave a dent in their fortune. You sure you're not working for the Nationals, big boy? You shill.

Posted by: Brue | December 11, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

>I think what this contract really reflects is that the Lerners are shrewd businessmen. In financial accounting, future expenditures are discounted. This reflects both inflation and the fact that the money can be used to earn interest during the elapsed time period. As a result, once the total dollar value was agreed upon, it was in the Nats interest to delay the expenditure as long as possible.

Posted by: none57

Wait, didn't the itinerant bastids delay Harper's bonus money too? Gotta get that interest baybee!! This is sheer brilliance and something to be admired. Drooling over how billionaires delay gratification for the fan base by finding any way possible to hold onto their money. How admirable.

Posted by: Brue | December 11, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Nice post, Adam, thanks.

Posted by: Section220 | December 11, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

So if we're now in "Phase 2" of "The Plan", I guess it's fair to say that "Phase I" is over. And since no one would ever share actual details of "The Plan", we can now look back and define what "Phase I" constituted.

I started to lay out "Phase I", but it depressed me more than it humored me so I gave up. I might take a stab at it later, but if anyone else would like to now lay out what "The Plan - Phase I" was, I'd enjoy the read.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 11, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Downside: Five years from now, Werth is hitting .247 with a marked falloff in power. Nats won't be able to trade him as his salary goes north and his performance goes south. So they end up eating his salary AND looking for a left fielder (we're assuming Harper's in RF by then).

Posted by: gilbertbp | December 11, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh for crying out loud. Mad, thick, and bitter is no way to go through life. The Lerner's just spent their money to bring a good player to town that no one thought would come. And the criticism is that they back loaded the contract?

It seems to me a decent bet that attendance and revenues will be up in five years. Why not align the expense with the revenue return. Seems like smart business to me.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 11, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I hadn't commented on the Werth deal(been waitin huh? LOL) but i see him bringing an expect to win attitude and more intenisty to the clubhouse, enough of the hey we're pals so it's all right if we lose mentality. The Lerners stepped up and yes they overpaid but had they sat on their wallets then everyone of us would be screaming i think Werth will at least get us out of the cellar. The pitching and D need to come around but the bullpen will be solid and hopefully the starters get us to 6/7 effective innings.

Posted by: dargregmag | December 11, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

The Lerners didn't become billionaires by listening to Brue. I'll leave the $$$ part of the business to them and Mr. Rizzo. Just bring in the players baby, and continue a bit on phase I as you integrate phase II. Phase I was rebuilding the minor leagues, at least thats what my take on it was. Afterall, MLB and the expos obliterated that part of the franchise when that plan called for contraction of the franchise. I think building the minor leagues back up to satisfactory levels in just 5 years is quite an accomplishment. GO NATS

Posted by: cokedispatch | December 11, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I am so happy with this move. I could care less if they spent more than he was worth or if its front loaded or back loaded. They made a move to try and improve the team, and I am expecting them to make more..

This has nothing to do with baseball but I am wondering if Brue has ever posted a positive point about the nationals. Also wondering, if we bring him so much disappointment why he doesn''t switch to another team or sport. Bottom line is the Lerners are our owners, Rizzo is our GM and Riggs is our manager and nothing anyone does on this blog is going to change that. I prefer to root for what is there and hope for the best. Ranting and raving will not improve a thing. I can be upset with double switches and poor fielding and a bench filled with .220 hitters and below but will still continue with my Season Tickets and I don't need to vent here about it.

Go Nats!!!

Posted by: sjm3091 | December 11, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

There is no cap in baseball. The only constraint is how much the Lerners are willing to spend, so who cares how much they are spending as long as they attract other free agents worth signing to make the team better.

Posted by: JohnWWW | December 11, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

This is classic backloading a contract just like many of the smaller market teams do and should do if the negotiations allow.

It also gets you thinking of how large the payroll will be in 2013 when Strasburg's arbitration kicks in and Zimmerman is pulling in $14,000,000 and Werth climbs to $16,000,000.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | December 11, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

The Lerners didn't become billionaires by listening to Brue.

Posted by: cokedispatch | December 11, 2010 4:18 PM

:-) Well said

Posted by: Kev29 | December 11, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Contract seems backwards. If they paid the big bucks early and Werth begins to decline in the later years, it would be much easier to rid themselves of an average player earning 10-13 Mil than one earning 21 Mil. I give you Agent Zero.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | December 11, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

There is no cap in baseball. The only constraint is how much the Lerners are willing to spend, so who cares how much they are spending as long as they attract other free agents worth signing to make the team better.

Posted by: JohnWWW | December 11, 2010 4:40 PM

Exactly. And if/when the Nats sign LaRoche and Pavano + make some re-signings and go through arbitration, they still could have a total salary in the lower half of the league. The Lerners will still make money - they'll be fine. I've been harsh critics of their ownership for the past four years, but I'm really behind the aggressive Werth signing. Let's hope they keep it up. I think the club wants to be respectable in 2011 and formidable in 2012 - which could be the breakout season.

Posted by: Kev29 | December 11, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Ranting and raving will not improve a thing. I can be upset with double switches and poor fielding and a bench filled with .220 hitters and below but will still continue with my Season Tickets and I don't need to vent here about it.

Posted by: sjm3091

Buying season tickets ain't gonna help it either, Einstein. That'll be $150. I think we should meet twice a week until you start to make better decisions.

Posted by: Brue | December 11, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

They're betting that this signing, and others, will bring in more fans, which will in turn bring in more revenue... which will in turn, fund these large contracts.

Posted by: Kennyg51 | December 11, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

We should leave contracts up to the Lerners and Rizzo.

I don't usually complain about the reporting, but this is one case where a comment from Rizzo seems like an automatic. Adam.

Posted by: comish4lif | December 11, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't bring that hometown hate crap to the nats... Leave it where it should be ...with the redskins. I've loved watching this team progress and there are a few moves that I didn't like so far. But for the most part I believe the nats are heading the right direction and moreover I believe that the nats will soon be the number two team in dc sports under the skins and dc WILL have a large baseball fan base. Look at how the stadium got packed for ss. You start bringing a little more to the plate every year and attendance will go up proportionality. I mean heck were pretty much the worst team record wise in baseball but we half fill the stadium regularly.

Posted by: capitolhill09 | December 11, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Don't bring that hometown hate crap to the nats... Leave it where it should be ...with the redskins. I've loved watching this team progress and there are a few moves that I didn't like so far. But for the most part I believe the nats are heading the right direction...
Posted by: capitolhill09 | December 11, 2010 8:36 PM
=============================================
I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until I'm proved wrong: the Nats will have their first winning season before the Redskins have their next one. It might not be happening as fast as some of us would like, but the movement is definitely in the right direction.

Posted by: gilbertbp | December 11, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Brue:
I've had season tickets since they came back and have been a fan since my mom started taking me in 1948. I am not sure I would really want to meet you once and certainly not twice a week even if you were buying the beer. I kinda like hanging with positive people and it served me well during my 40 years of coaching. Again, not saying you don't have a right to gripe, especially on a blog but I still question what you get out of being so negative. I am not an Einstein but am pretty happy with who I am and don't need to make up whitty" names. You take care and thanks for all the fish.

Go Nationals!!

Posted by: sjm3091 | December 11, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Have to commend AK for a Saturday post (unless of course he works Saturdays, but hey, thanks anyway). I hope he's right, and I don't see it the way Brue does. He must have been in a foul mood, but we should cut some slack for sticking it out through a long bad stretch.

Posted by: nats24 | December 11, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

And sjm, I'm impressed. You must have seen a lot of Mickey Vernon and Eddie Yost. You probably saw game in that season (was it '53?) when they finished .500, and before ol' Grif moved the fences in. I didn't see a Nats game until '58, and they were real bad then.

Posted by: nats24 | December 11, 2010 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Contract seems backwards. If they paid the big bucks early and Werth begins to decline in the later years, it would be much easier to rid themselves of an average player earning 10-13 Mil than one earning 21 Mil. I give you Agent Zero.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | December 11, 2010 5:18 PM
))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

Just like the Nats had to do with Cristian Guzman and Nick Johnson, you can trade a player and pick up part of the salary.

Any time you can defer income, it is usually makes sense. The only negative I can see is that it will cost this team a lot more when they are ready to negotiate a contract extension for Ryan Zimmerman!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | December 11, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

It's simple... if this is the dirst step in th Lerner's spending the $ and becoming a top tier team then its a good contract; if they remain cheap and this is the only big name player they sign then its a horrible contract. Guess we will have to wait and see.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 12, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

SCNats - about as concise, and accurate, as can be.
It isn't a good contract yet, but it sure could be.
It ain't a bad contract yet, but it sure could be.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 12, 2010 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Buying season tickets ain't gonna help it either, Einstein. That'll be $150. I think we should meet twice a week until you start to make better decisions.

Posted by: Brue | December 11, 2010 5:38 PM
*****************************************************************
298 losses in the last 3 years. Talk to Pants, Brue! C'mon Pants! Spend some of those billions! You can't let it just sit there like Landmark Mall. Nats Park will look like an unscheduled afternoon make-up game- we're not going for your $7 Miller Lites, Pants. We're not going to see you lose. Stan "The Plan" left town, so we're not buying that all this suffering is a necessary step to the playoffs. I laughed when I got the Nats offering of a 3 pack for Christmas - I told a friend I was getting it for him, and he said, "What'd I do to you?"

Posted by: flynnie321 | December 12, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm smiling to the the Nats in the FA trade game. Yes, they had to overpay. I always liked Werth, intense and focused, even when he was agin' us. Now he's fer us, and I'm glad to watch.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | December 12, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Downside: Five years from now, Werth is hitting .247 with a marked falloff in power. Nats won't be able to trade him as his salary goes north and his performance goes south. So they end up eating his salary AND looking for a left fielder (we're assuming Harper's in RF by then).
-----------------------------------------

I think it's more likely that if he's playing well in two years they will trade him and eat a large portion of his contract.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | December 12, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

@SCNats and Sunderland: My thoughts exactly. I really hope they add another couple of pieces and that the Werth deal is not a stand alone move. I am cautiously optimistic that it is obvious that if no further additions are made, the Werth deal will be a waste of money, and since nobody accuses the Lerners of wasting money there will be more to come in this offseason. One hopes.

Posted by: NatsFly | December 12, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Nats_Lady; I'm with you, Werth as i commented in a post yesterday brings a winning attitude and a swagger if you will to a team sorely in need of it.

Posted by: dargregmag | December 12, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

>Brue:
I've had season tickets since they came back and have been a fan since my mom started taking me in 1948. I am not sure I would really want to meet you once and certainly not twice a week even if you were buying the beer. I kinda like hanging with positive people and it served me well during my 40 years of coaching. Again, not saying you don't have a right to gripe, especially on a blog but I still question what you get out of being so negative. I am not an Einstein but am pretty happy with who I am and don't need to make up whitty" names.

Posted by: sjm3091

Ain't no shame in my game, Fester. You trying to pull rank on me or what? All I do is hold up a mirror to the team. That's it - I want to talk about the new players we're gonna get, or what to do with the ones we have. I'm sick to death of LAC too at this point.

But what they really need is good baseball advice. If Pants can't provide it, maybe someone on the staff has enough sense to read what I try to put across. Who knows. Boz himself said that Pants COMPLETELY BLEW the Dunn negoations. He did everything wrong. If it was me - I would have had Harper play every game in the AFL - I said so at the time, and he goes and hits .349. You tell me, coach. Right. 'Let's see if he can excel in the minors.' No, how about 'let's work backward this time', because they haven't seen this power but a couple of times this century. Let him hit his way out of the majors, let him go down, and he can come back next year or whatever. But unfortunately, that ain't gonna happen, because every time he hits a fly ball it has a chance to leave the park. And he can go the other way with power. There's nothing left to prove, all he needs is ABs to familiarize himself with the opposing pitchers in the bigs. I think you should put either Werth or him CF, and the other in RF and you have instant dynamics in your lineup. You could hit Harper anywhere in the middle of the order, so he would enable another player to slide down a slot, which makes your lineup more powerful automatically. See, I look at the good stuff. I just don't look at it the same way you do.

Posted by: Brue | December 12, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

>298 losses in the last 3 years. Talk to Pants, Brue! C'mon Pants! Spend some of those billions! You can't let it just sit there like Landmark Mall. Nats Park will look like an unscheduled afternoon make-up game- we're not going for your $7 Miller Lites, Pants. We're not going to see you lose. Stan "The Plan" left town, so we're not buying that all this suffering is a necessary step to the playoffs. I laughed when I got the Nats offering of a 3 pack for Christmas - I told a friend I was getting it for him, and he said, "What'd I do to you?"

Posted by: flynnie321

Go Pants Go! Go Pants Go! My advice would be to put his big boy pants on and fall out of love with his prospects and look more at putting a roster together. You HAVE to be able to pull the trigger, maybe it changes the culture in your organization.

Posted by: Brue | December 12, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Brue:
Harper projects as a 'stud', there's no getting around that. As of today, Rizzo sees him in low-A HAG to start 2011; If he exceeds that expectation in spring training, I'd think adjustments will be made, but he still won't start 2011 'in the bigs', imo. Give him a chance to mature a little more at least - He's barely 18.

Should Harper continue to over-achieve (for his age/experience) in Viera (best-case scenario), then Rizzo gains the option of moving one (or more) of Bernadina / Burgess / Morgan / Morse / Willingham for either more prospects, or immediate ML help.

It's a win-win situation, only it might take longer than you want it to.

Posted by: BinM | December 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Kilgore: While it's nice to hear your opinions on someone elses' lede, the question isn't as much about how Werth's salary is loaded, but more about what the Nationals' are doing to fill the remaining 'holes' in the roster, imo.

> Are they going to fill the gap at 1B, and who are the candidates you've heard about?
> What about the lack of projected LH bats in the 2011 lineup? Who might fill that gap?
> Seemingly out of the running for Cliff Lee, will they 'over-offer' for Pavano, or turn back to 'dumpster-diving' for recovering SP's like Wang & Webb?
> Is the FO still considering a trade for a #1-2SP along the lines of Grienke /Garza / Shields / others, or have they backed off?
> Is Rizzo looking at any other bench players (IF-OF) to support the starting lineup, or is he going 'internal' for this?

Please pick a topic & follow it, rather than just parroting what's available on Twitter & MLBTradeRumours. You're the beat reporter for the team - Milk your sources.

Posted by: BinM | December 12, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

If all somebody can find to complain about is that we may be hamstrung in 2017 I think we'd have to say things are looking up.

Posted by: markfromark | December 12, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

"If all somebody can find to complain about is ..."

That'll be the day.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 12, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

only a dozen weeks til spring training

Posted by: cokedispatch | December 12, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

"If all somebody can find to complain about is ..."

That'll be the day.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 12, 2010 5:33 PM
=========================================
As long as Brue is here, there will be complaints, even if the Nats go 162-0 in the regular season and win the World Series in four straight perfect games.

Posted by: gilbertbp | December 12, 2010 7:16 PM | Report abuse

So Derrick Lee or Adam LaRoche? I would happily cheer for either, but I've always been an admirer of D.Lee. He has less power than some first basemen but he is a superior fielder, and a clucth hitter. I like him a little better between Zim and Werth than I would LaRoche. Fewer strikeouts and less streaky.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 12, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

I like Lee but believe he's a A, so for that I'd rather have LaRoche

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 12, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

biscuit, since Derrek Lee is a right handed hitter, I'm sure he's valued less by the Nats at this point. If they add a bat, it's almost certainly going to be left handed.

I certainly hope we sign LaRoche in the next day or two. I'm sure he's parlaying offers into additional years. The most anyone could possibly offer him is 4 years. If we don't need him after 2 years, then trade him for prospects and eat some salary if you need to. But heck, if he delivers hitting between Zimm and Werth, then maybe in 2 years he's actually worth something. Seems like a small risk to me. Especially considering what Dunn got, LaRoche can't be more than $7.5M a season.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 13, 2010 7:10 AM | Report abuse

The reason for my inquiry about D.Lee, is that there are reports out that the Nationals are in pursuit of him. Also there are reports/analysis out that LaRoche is looking for a multi year $10M+/year pay day. So it is not a given that LaRoche will be signable. Of course D.Lee is said to be prioritizing a contending ball club. I like the left handedness of LaRoche but Lee has some advantages too.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 13, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

So, "Phase One" was build through scouting and player development? And they did not even hire a full front office until last year, no international signings until Maya in 2010? And the farm is ranked in the middle of the pack at best, even with Harper added in?

If Phase Three is being an elite club, I'll likely be teleporting to the games from my vacation home on Mars when they get to that point.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 13, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

They are looking for more embittered faux fans over at the Redskins blog. Please feek free to teleport over there....:(

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 13, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Faux? Naux. Embittered? Sorta, much reason to be even more so. Forgive me for being non-plussed by references to phases of the Plan.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 13, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

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