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Jayson Werth's deal says more about Boras

12/6/2010
Here we go -- the winter meetings will see many dominoes fall after Jayson Werth. ESPN.com Illustration

Scott Boras will often make extraordinary claims -- and make almost unbelievable comparisons. The perception of some executives is that he will present really high numbers in speculation about his clients so he can make the eventual terms look more palpable to interested teams.

At the outset of this offseason, Boras compared one of his clients, Jayson Werth, to Matt Holliday -- whose seven-year, $120 million deal stunned baseball officials this past winter -- and many executives viewed the link of Werth and Holliday as more super-agent rhetoric.

And on Sunday, Werth got more than Holliday; for the first time in history, Boras might have underestimated what his client would get.

Werth's seven-year, $126 million contract immediately drew anger from rival officials who were furious about the terms. "Absolutely crazy," said one high-ranking AL official.

"You're kidding me," a general manager screamed into the phone. "What could they have been thinking?"

Mets executive Sandy Alderson offered this, dryly: "I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington."

To put this in perspective: The Nationals spent more money on Werth than all the free agents the franchise had signed in the previous 20 years combined.

Through the years, Boras has always had one or two clubs he has gone back to for his big strikes. For a time, that team was the Texas Rangers, with owner Tom Hicks, who wrote the checks for Alex Rodriguez and Chan Ho Park. For a time it was the Los Angeles Dodgers, who paid top dollar for Kevin Brown and others. In more recent years, Boras has doubled back to the Detroit Tigers, for players such as Magglio Ordonez and Johnny Damon.

The Nationals appear to be his new best friends, given the contracts worked out for Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and now for Werth. It's worth remembering as the talks continue for another Boras client -- first baseman Carlos Pena.

The Nationals went all out for Werth, writes Adam Kilgore. Werth says he didn't feel wanted by the Phillies.

Werth took big money to join a doormat, writes Phil Rogers. Werth is a nice player, writes Bill Conlin, but the Nationals' decision was awful.

In 2010, Werth led the NL in doubles (46), but was top-10 in numerous categories: extra-base hits (fourth, with 75), runs (fourth, with 106), OPS (sixth, at .921) and OBP (eighth, at .388), among others.

The Nationals, meanwhile, ranked 29th in outfielder batting average (.244), 26th in outfielder slugging (.390) and 25th in outfielder OPS (.720). Werth last year: .296/.532/.921. He'll no doubt improve that area.

A problem, though: Werth hit .186 with runners in scoring position, the fifth-lowest by any player since 2000 (minimum 150 PA), and the worst since Aubrey Huff hit .181 in 2006. He'll fit in with a Nationals team that hit .253 with runners in scoring position, ranked 21st in MLB and 13th in the NL.

This contract is unprecedented for the Washington Nationals franchise in a number of regards.

Before this, the most they committed to a free-agent contract since the 1990-91 offseason was $20 million over two years to Adam Dunn in the 2008-09 offseason.

Before this, they had signed only one player to a free-agent contract of more than three years: Cristian Guzman got a four-year deal in 2004-05.

So what now for Carl Crawford?

Within this piece, there is word that the Angels' preference is to sign Carl Crawford to a five-year deal. If that is, in fact, somewhere close to the Angels' ceiling for bidding, then they probably have no chance to sign Crawford, unless they're willing to pay him $25 million a year or more -- and even that might not be enough, because in the aftermath of the Werth contract, Crawford, the younger and better player, is probably in position to ask for eight years.

The dominoes are moving: Now that Werth is off the board, Crawford will command attention from the Red Sox, Yankees, Angels and other teams.

Gonzo goes to Beantown

The Red Sox and Padres finished off the Gonzalez trade. It was a strange day, writes Nick Cafardo.

It's expected that the Red Sox and Gonzalez will work out an extension for about seven years and no more than $22 million in any season; it's possible he will get a signing bonus. The player to be named in this deal is expected to be a second- or third-tier prospect, not somebody of major stature.

The bottom line was that no available player could have been a better fit for the Red Sox right now; they needed to get this done. And if this deal had fallen apart because of money, the Boston ownership would have gotten hammered on talk radio and in bar talk; remember, John Henry and Tom Werner just purchased the Liverpool soccer franchise for a lot of money, and the running commentary within Red Sox Nation would have been that the soccer investment had impacted Henry's investment in the Red Sox. It was important for them to finish this deal for a whole lot of reasons.

The Beltre market

The Oakland Athletics walked away from the Adrian Beltre talks because time and again, the third baseman made it clear that he had little interest in taking the offers from the Athletics, which were always the highest on the board -- over three years last year, and $64 million over five years this year.

The Athletics will look for other players now, but the reality is that this franchise continues to rot while waiting for a decision on whether the team can move to San Jose. Agents talk about how their players aren't really that interested in the Athletics partly because of their facilities, which are the Model T version of ballparks these days. On days after the Oakland Raiders play, the sewage system flows heavily and the smell wafts in the home and visiting clubhouses. The Athletics need a decision to build hope.

Hideki Matsui is probably high on the list of Oakland targets now, writes Susan Slusser within this piece.

The Yankees' deal

Brian Cashman climbed a building, as he prepared to negotiate a deal with Cliff Lee. The Yankees are focused on pitching. The Yankees are set to begin their push for Lee.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Brewers swapped Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum. I like this trade a lot for both sides; Marcum could really help the Brewers next season. He's such a smart pitcher and will use the weak spots in the National League lineups to navigate his way through trouble.

2. The Jays made this trade and now have an eye on Zack Greinke, writes Bob Elliott.

3. The Rangers are playing a strong hand as these meetings begin, writes Jeff Wilson.

4. Orioles GM Andy MacPhail expects the winter meetings to be hectic.

5. Here are some possible free-agent targets for the Diamondbacks, from Nick Piecoro.

6. Heard this: The Yankees are among the teams talking with Brian Fuentes.

7. The winter meetings offer one-stop shopping for everybody, write Mike DiGiovanna and Dylan Hernandez.

8. Bengie Molina is being targeted by the Rockies, writes Troy Renck.

9. The Tigers are heading to the winter meetings looking for a blockbuster, writes Lynn Henning.

10. Matt Holliday may be moved to right field. The Cardinals still have needs to address.

11. The Reds are unlikely to be major players at the meetings.

12. The Indians are looking for bargains, writes Paul Hoynes.

13. The plans differ for the White Sox and Cubs, writes Dave van Dyck.

14. Heard this: A.J. Pierzynski was very, very close to making a deal with the Dodgers before he re-signed with the White Sox.

15. The Cubs will be bottom-feeding, like a lot of other teams, Gordon Wittenmyer writes.

16. The Braves are looking to trade Kenshin Kawakami, writes David O'Brien.

17. Boras was indirectly critical of the Rays, writes Marc Topkin.

18. The Marlins won't sit idle at these meetings, writes Juan Rodriguez.

19. The Astros' options are expanded as the meetings begin, writes Zachary Levine.

20. Frank Coonelly addresses the question of why the Pirates would add now.

Odds and ends

Derek Jeter is signed, but now comes the hard part, writes George Vecsey. The Yankees had a little vengeance in mind in these negotiations, writes Joel Sherman.

• The Reds hope to fix Dontrelle Willis.

• The Twins could use an ace like Zack Greinke.

• Businesses will go to bat for a new Rays stadium, writes Michael Sasso.

Chuck Knoblauch once went through the same experience that LeBron James did.

• Ron Santo's success against the best shows he's a Hall of Famer, writes Mark Potash.

And today will be better than yesterday.