The first thing that keeps coming back is that it's too many years. It just is. Whatever you think about Werth, and I think he's very good, and whatever you think of how much he's being paid, this is too much. Seven years will cover Jayson from age 32-38. Last year there were only 38 players ("how about that!" says Mel Allen) age 38 or older in the major league, 22 hitters. Only 8 had more than 300 at bats and only 2 (Jim Thome and the well-rested Jim Edmonds) were good. There is no way the Nats are getting 7 years of good play out of Jayson Werth. It's very likely the Nats won't get 7 years of any kind of play for Werth. The last 2-3 years of this deal, in those years specifically, is money thrown away.
As for the money, it IS too much, but I don't really care about that. You might be able to argue he was worth 18 million last year. That was his best year ever. Will he be worth that much in a single year ever again? I doubt it. Still, as long as you aren't setting strong limits in your spending on a yearly basis I don't think it matters. It's only when teams go "oh we can't pay for that over there, because we're paying for this over here" does it become an issue. The Nats were that kind of team, but maybe this signals they aren't going to be anymore. We'll see, right?
Anyway you look at it, yearly cost or amount of years, it was an overpay, and as Michael Richards would say - that's what's so insane about it. The Phillies were offering a deal of somewhere around 16 million a year for 4 years. With that knowledge I can see the Nats giving Werth 18 mill a year for 4 or maybe 5 years. I can see the Nats signing Werth to a 7 year deal, for maybe 90 million. But to overpay in years AND in dollars. I don't get why it had to be like that.
Draft picks? The most overrated thing in baseball today. I've said it once and I'll say it over and over again until I turn blue. Every team can't possibly succeed through draft pick hoarding, cheap player development, and smart budget-level free agent signing. It just can't be done. And that's a loooong process to go through just to fail and watch yourself have to start all over again. It's asinine to act like every team should follow this singular path to success. So if anyone starts talking in this manner, feel free to ignore them until the subject changes. I'm not saying the Nats move wasn't a mistake - you can make that argument. I'm just saying if they start framing it in the "well the Nats should have used the draft picks from Dunn to slowly develop, blah blah blah" that there is probably little actual thinking behind this.
I say it can be argued the deal was a mistake. Do I think it was a good deal? No. It isn't. I can't look at a deal that overpays in every way it can for a guy who will be 32 next year and say it's a good deal. I have to believe that they could have somehow worked out more favorable terms. Also, we all know they could have kept Dunn for 4 years probably 52 million or so. It isn't just signing Werth, it's signing Werth vs signing Dunn AND having 5 million a year for 4 years AND having 54 million more dollars for three years after that AND having a couple draft picks. That teeter-totter has Werth pretty high up in the air. Down the road, unless the Nats move to truly be big spenders, this could hurt them.
Of course that doesn't mean it's a all-time worst-ever deal. It only can be a debacle if Werth gets injured, which isn't out of the realm of possibility. You'll hear this contract compared to those given Barry Zito and Vernon Wells, both because they were paid 126 million and because they were good players that got paid like great ones. However, both of these guys also showed a tendency to mix pretty average years with good years, and that was in their late 20s. Chances were not only good that their contracts would be bad, but that they could be bad quickly. Which they were. Werth though has been consistently good the past few years... when healthy. That's the key. If he's healthy he will likely give the Nats 2-3 more excellent years and that's the point really. A terribly expensive point to make, but the point nonetheless. This is to give the Nats credibility and a better shot at keeping the young stars they have as much as it's for winning.
It's still not enough though. Unless they fill the first base hole and get that ace pitcher, the Nats are still also-rans, except now they would be also-rans with a unwieldy contract hanging over their heads. In for 1.8 billion pennies a year, are the Nats in for a pound?