For what it’s Werth

Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth, the 126 million dollar man

Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said today that the Tigers were never in the hunt for Jayson Werth, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies and one of the coveted free agents up for grabs this offseason.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve ever doubted the wisdom of Dombo (not to be confused with the elephant, Dumbo) let this ease your mind.

So the Nationals, another National League club, plunked down an almost unthinkable amount of money for a guy who has never managed to break .300 on the season. And yes, I know that he’s come close, but if I’m going to sign a guy to a deal like that—7 years, $126 million—I am certainly not going to go all-in on a guy who can’t break .300 in the NL.

That’s Miguel Cabrera money, but Werth is not putting up Miguel Cabrera numbers in the column that matters most: RBIs.

You want a guy who only hits homers when it doesn’t matter, or the bases are empty, sign Marcus Thames to a league-minimum deal. You want a guy who’s not going to choke when you’ve got runners ready to score? Then Werth is not really your man.

So why is Dombo right to have never even entered the Werth sweepstakes?

Because Werth is a lot like a guy who got a similar contract recently: Matt Holliday.

And when you look at Holliday’s numbers, you see a pretty obvious trend. When he’s played in the NL, he’s been above .300 every year save one—and that year, he hit .290. But for the half-season he was in Oakland, he hit .286—worse than his rookie year. He’s traded to the Cards at midseason, and hits .386.

The worst thing that could have happened for the Tigers would have been a repeat of the Dontrell Willis experience, but with a hitter. Werth, I suspect, is a lot like Holliday, in that they’re very skilled (in Werth’s case, somewhat skilled) hitters in the NL, but in the AL. . . well, it’s better for Werth to stay in the NL.

I mean, look: Holliday had a ONE HUNDRED POINT SWING in his batting average. Just by switching leagues. Now, ok, maybe we can’t extrapolate that—it does seem too extreme to be a standard for players of Werth’s / Holliday’s ilk when switching to the AL, with it’s harder-to-master pitching—but even a fifty point drop would have been disaster.

Can you imagine the Tigers with a big money, big name free agent, who sometimes plays right field and struggles at the plate? And hits, what, .230? No, no you can’t. Even Johnny Damon, who was slightly disappointing, hit .270.

So who’s a better bet for the Tigers? There’s always Carl Crawford who can hit, field, and run. (The Tigers would be wise to add a bona fide baserunner—teams like the Twins always kill us with the running game.) Or Jim Thome. Or, hey, Magglio Ordonez.

Don’t be sad, Tigers fans. We didn’t miss out on anything but a sure bust. I’m fairly certain that Werth will continue to nibble around the .300 mark this season, but he’s not going to make the Nats a contender. Of course, if I’m Dombo, and I’m wrong, I can always take solace in the $126 million I didn’t place on that bet.

2 Responses to “For what it’s Werth”
  1. Baseball fan says:
    It’s never a good idea to use RBIs when debating the relative value of baseball players. Although, you are correct that Miguel Cabrera is more valuable than Jason Werth.

    • Angela Vasquez-Giroux says:

      Thanks for reading, BF. The reason I’m keen on comparing RBIs for a guy like Werth is because he is being paid (by the Nats) Cabrera money, but he hasn’t been able to produce what matters most for hitters: RBIs. His fans will point to his OBP, etc, but that’s not a measure of success. You don’t want a guy who just gets on base. You want a guy who hits runners in, and that (along with a low batting average) is the reason Werth is a bust. If you check the other stats, head to head, his numbers aren’t too far off of Cabrera’s.

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