COMMENTARY | With less than a decade as a major-league franchise, not counting their prior incarnation as the Montreal Expos, the Washington Nationals' forays into free agency have been fairly limited.
In the years ahead, however, the team promises to emerge as a major player in the free agency market. With a new stadium, one of the larger media markets in the league, and a multi-billionaire at the helm, the Nationals should have money to spend. As they become more established, fans are likely to see them make some big splashes in free agency and, of course, a few flops.
Here are the top five busts so far:
5. Dan Haren
It's conceivable, if not likely, that Haren will work his way off this list by season's end. He's improved over his last few starts, but his stat line still comes up short of the $13 million he's earning this year. In his first 13 1/3 innings, Haren surrendered 26 hits, 12 runs, and 5 home runs. He's been better this month, but his ERA still hangs at 4.76.
Although the Daniel Cabrera experiment only cost $2.6 million, his implosion was just one more thing wrong with the team's wretched 2009 season. Cabrera lasted only 40 innings with the Nats, meaning he got $65,000 for each inning of mediocrity. He posted an 0-5 record, a 2.08 WHIP, and a 5.85 ERA in his short stint in Washington. The Nationals lost all nine games he appeared in and mercifully released him in late-May.
3. Paul Lo Duca
Two days after Lo Duca signed with the Nationals in 2007, he made headlines for being named in the Mitchell Report for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. His stint in Washington didn't improve much from there. In 46 games, he hit .230 with no home runs and 12 RBIs. He made $5 million for this partial season and was released shortly after the All-Star break.
While Dan Haren struggled this April, he can't compare to Jason Marquis' start to the 2010 season. Marquis kicked off his first season with the Nats by posting a 20.52 ERA in his first three starts before hitting the DL. He would finish an injury-riddled season with a 2-9 record and a 6.60 ERA. Marquis pitched better once he was healthy but was traded to the Arizona Diamonds midway through the 2011 season. For just over $13 million, the Nats got 179 1/3 innings of work, a 10-14 record, and a 4.82 ERA.
1. Jayson Werth
Jayson Werth is many things -- a good teammate, a solid player, and the owner of a fantastic beard. Unfortunately, none of those attributes make him worth $126 million. While he may be an above-average player, he's never performed at a high enough level to justify such a massive deal and likely never will now that he's in his mid-30s.
Since he signed with the Nationals, he's hit .256 with just 29 home runs and 99 RBIs in 258 games. He's also missed more than a hundred games since the start of the 2011 season. While it's not Werth's fault he signed a huge deal, this contract is ridiculous on a number of levels.
John Cannon is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Washington Nationals.
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