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Jayson Werth Signs With The Washington Nationals, Matt Holliday Style

Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals agreed today on a seven-year, $126 million contract in one of the most surprising moves of the offseason (since yesterday, at least.) If that deal looks and sounds familiar to you, it might be because the Cardinals signed Matt Holliday to an almost identical deal last season—seven years, $120 million, albeit with an option year. 

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Holliday is better than Werth; I don't think this is in dispute. Despite his more recent emergence as an impact player Werth is a year older and, unlike Holliday, has missed long stretches of his career with injuries, although he's played more than 155 games in each of the last two seasons. Holliday has been Holliday for five consecutive years now; depending on your opinion about Jayson Werth's gaudy fielding numbers (prior to a dip this season), Werth has been Werth for no more than three, and a top-ten hitter for only one. 

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But the Washington Nationals aren't the St. Louis Cardinals, and don't yet have a winning tradition or an enormous fanbase to offer prospective free agents. More than Holliday's this contract resembles the deal the Tigers signed Magglio Ordonez to following his injury-riddled season in 2004 and the Tigers' historically bad run. It's an attempt to establish the Nationals as a real destination for free agents and a force, eventually, in the NL East. 

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It's also an overpay, but I imagine the Nationals know that already. If they can use it to establish credibility as Bryce Harper develops and Stephen Strasburg rehabs it could prove to be a turning point; if Werth's injury problems intensify as he ages it could be an albatross. But I can see the Nationals position, here—what does it matter if you're stuck with an albatross if you're already sinking?

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