Sunday, December 5, 2010
Many elements to Werth's free agent value
What is Jayson Werth worth?
With Werth signing with the Washington Nationals, let's run through a closer look at his value, with the help of our resources from the Elias Sports Bureau, Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference.com and Baseball Info Solutions.
Among this year's free agent outfielders, Werth's skills rate among the best in a number of areas. He's hit 87 home runs and stolen 53 bases over the last three seasons. The only other player to go 80 and 50 since 2008 -- Werth's soon-to-be former teammate, second baseman Chase Utley.
Werth is one of 10 hitters to average at least 29 home runs and post an OPS+ of 130 or better since 2008. Werth's OPS, adjusted for playing much of the time in Citizen's Bank Park, is 132 in that span, meaning he was 32 percent better than a league average player.
Defensively, Werth plays a very valuable role, not quite to Crawford's level, but it's impressive nonetheless. Over the last three seasons, he rates fifth-best among right fielders in the metric Defensive Runs Saved, which charts the ability to turn batted balls into outs and the ability to deter baserunners from taking an extra base.
The strength comes from Werth's throwing arm. When a single was hit Werth's way, only 42 percent of runners who were on second base scored. That's considerably below the major league average of 58 percent. In terms of deterrent value (measured by the defensive metric, Runs Saved), Werth's arm ranked third-best in the majors among rightfielders last season.
The one stat which might scare a team is that Werth rated among the worst in baseball with runners in scoring position, hitting just .186 last season. However, statistical studies have shown that those numbers fluctuate greatly from year-to-year. In fact, in each of the previous four seasons, Werth hit over .260 in those situations.
Werth still finished among the major league leaders in Win Probability Added last season (which measures the contributions of each plate appearance to a teams chance to win). So his positive performance in other situations helped counterbalance the issues he had in the highest-leverage situations and kept Werth's value very high.
The Nationals could use the help. Their outfielders ranked second-worst in the majors in batting average (.244), and fifth-worst in slugging percentage (.390). They also fared 10th in the NL in on-base percentage (.329), and home runs (52) last season, and their rightfielders ranked 10th in the league in Defensive Runs Saved.
Against Nationals pitchers, he hit .500 with five home runs and a 1.227 slugging percentage. He won't have the benefit of facing them any more, but Washington will hope his contributions will be equally, or close to equally worthwhile.
It's a stunning move for the Nationals from a contractual perspective. ESPN Stats and Information maintains a database of free agent contract signings dating back to the 1990-91 offseason. From that, we learned:
Jayson Werth is the fifth player aged 31 or older (as of opening day) to sign a free agent contract of at least seven years since the 1990-91 offseason.
Prior to this, the largest free agent contract given by the Nationals/Expos since 1990-91 was $20 million over two years to Adam Dunn in the 2008-09 offseason.
They had signed only one player to a free agent contract of more than three years -- Cristian Guzman got a 4-year deal in 2004-05
Entering today, the estimated total value of free agent contracts signed by players with the Nationals and Expos since 1990-91 was $122.1 million (less than what Werth got).
Follow Baseball Tonight's Winter Meetings coverage all week on SportsCenter and Monday with a special show live from Lake Buena Vista, Florida at 6 ET on ESPN2.