The first major free agent domino fell on Sunday afternoon as Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals (?) agreed to a seven-year, $126 million contract ($18 million per season). Mr. Werth has never driven in 100 RBIs nor hit over .300 during his career. In fact, he has only topped 30 HRs once (2009). But hey, the dude got paid. Can’t be mad at him. However, the rest of baseball can basically thank the Washington Nationals for inflating the 2010-2011 free agent market. It’s time to watch Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee get PAID.
Since this past July, the Yankees and Cliff Lee have been linked together. After Seattle turned their backs on a potential Yankee package that would have landed the talented lefty in the Bronx, fans anxiously waited for December’s Winter Meetings, hoping Lee would be Bronx-bound. We’ve heard reports that Lee and Brian Cashman met at Lee’s home two weeks ago. We’ve also heard that Lee is currently on a large-scale hunting trip, right as Baseball’s Winter Meetings are kicking off. Sounds pretty fun to me when you know a nine-figure deal is coming your way.
Given the inflated deal that Jayson Werth just signed, I believe that any interested club is going to have give the 32-year-old lefty at least a six-year offer in the ballpark of $22-$24 million per season. Lee has not received any formal offers yet, but rumors are already begin to swirl. We’ve heard that the Yankees are willing to go six-years, but will not go a seventh. The Rangers were ready to offer Lee a four-year deal, but are re-thinking that strategy. One executive thinks that Lee will receive a seven-year offer (maybe the Angels?) but even then, that’s a big time commitment for a team who has a lot of holes to plug in the short-term.
Will the Red Sox get involved? I doubt it. I think they’ll check in on Lee, but their rotation is pretty much set and they already have two five-year pitching contracts on their books.
Will the Mets get involved? No.
Potential Suitors for Lee: Yankees, Rangers, Angels
Projected Contract: Six Years, $140 million
Ultimately, I think Lee will wind up in the Bronx. I don’t think the Rangers could match that offer and I think the Angels could fill more holes (think Adrian Beltre, Rafael Soriano, Carl Crawford, etc) with Lee money.
In addition to Lee, this off-season’s other prize, Carl Crawford, looks to cash in. The 29-year-old left fielder is one of the game’s most versatile players. In seven of the last eight seasons, Crawford has stolen at least 46 bases and set a career in 2009 with 60 thefts. Crawford saved his best season for last, as he clubbed 19 HRs, knocked in 90 RBIs, while hitting .307 with 47 stolen bases. Crawford won his first Gold Glove in 2010 and is a four-time All-Star.
Given Werth inflated contract, how much can we reasonably expect the five-tool outfielder to command? Is a 10-year, $180 million out of the realm of possibilities? Probably for everyone outside of the Yankees, but I don’t think the Bombers will get involved. If Cliff Lee signs elsewhere and Crawford is still on the market, then expect the Yankees to be aggressive. In turn, the Yankees could deal off one of their extra outfield pieces (hopefully not Swisher!) to obtain an arm. And honestly, do the Yankees need Carl Crawford?
Will the Red Sox get involved?: No, I don’t think so. After giving Adrian Gonzalez $154 million, I don’t think the Fenway Faithful will want to spend $300 million on two position players.
Potential Suitors for Crawford: Angels, Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees
Projected Contract: 8-Years, $155 million
The Angels have been the front runners for Crawford’s services all winter. They have the cash and desperately need a speedy player at the top of their lineup. He makes a lot of sense for the Angels.
A lot of team executives were cursing out Jayson Werth on Sunday afternoon after he took the Nationals to the cleaners. However, all of the remaining free agents let out a collective sigh as the market has been firmly established. People are about to get paiiiiiddd.
In a time of economic uncertainty, Jayson Werth just provides the free agent market a nice, big stimulus package.