The Jayson Werth Contract

The Miguel Cabrera contract – and the outrage it has inspired – resurrected discussion of Jayson Werth’s contract as a point of comparison. As Buster Olney tweeted:

Haven’t heard as much disgust over a contract from rival execs since the Jayson Werth contract.

In April of 2013, John Cannon of Yahoo sports called it:

“…the most absurd and unfathomably huge contract in the major leagues.”

In March, 2014, a ComcastSportsNet headline stated:

Werth’s contract still the benchmark for shocking MLB deals.

So people still refer to it as not only a bad contract, but in fact one of the worst contracts in recent history.

Werth didn’t help matters by getting off to a slow start in D.C., but he had a great year in 2013, posting a 4.9 WAR.

And for context, note that (according to Forbes) as of 2012 the average cost of a point of WAR was $5.9 million.

If you add up Werth’s cumulative WAR over the first three years of the contract it totals 6.8. Over that three year period, the Nats paid him just under $40m.

That works out to $5.7 million per WAR point.

So, in fact, this contract – regularly derided as among the worst in baseball history – has been slightly better than average over the first three years.

Yes, the contract goes on for many more years. And yes the salary keeps going up, so that when Werth is 38, the Nats will owe him $21m. I get all that stuff.

But the average cost per WAR in Major League Baseball will almost certainly keep going up as well.

And if Werth averages about a 3 WAR for the remainder of the the deal (4 more years), then it will in fact turn out to be almost exactly average. Sure, that’s a big if. And certainly, you are always looking for better than average. But, in one year, that contract went from catastrophic all the way to to early to tell.

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