Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jayson Werth donned a Nats cap and jersey today for the first time.
Here we go...
Q: What intrigued you about Washington, and how do you expect to help this team win?
"One thing I saw with the Nationals the past few years playing them is just the grittiness they have, a will to win. Although they've had some rough seasons the past few years, they have some talent. It's very young and unpolished. That's one thing I look forward to helping along the way. I've always been a big fan of the underdog, and I think this situation in Washington is one going forward that the city and fans will come with love for us and come out and see us on a nightly basis."
Q: Do you feel any undue pressure signing such a long-term contract, one of the largest in MLB history?
"Any time you go on the field and you play for a team, there's going to be pressure. I'm coming to this team and this city to get involved with something much greater than what what you've seen here before. The Lerners are on board, Mike's on board, Jim's on board. We're all going in the same direction. I don't foresee any undue pressure. I just want
to go out there and play my game."
Q: How comfortable are you with the idea of being "The Guy" and having a little more weight on your shoulders, both on and off the field?
"I look forward to it. I've been playing this game a long time. I've played in World Series, I've played in postseasons. The thing about baseball is: You play it day in and day out. In a 162-game schedule, I think a lot of things get overlooked. The one thing I can control is the level of intensity and the overall willingness to play the game on a day-in, day-out basis. I look forward to it. I look forward to playing with these guys. We've got a talented group. Just a little polish here and a little polish there, I think we're going to be good."
Q: What do you think the timetable is for this team to contend?
"The thing about this team is, I think there are pieces to the puzzle that can be put together and make this team a winner. I was assured by the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo that they're going to take the steps needed to go get those players and to fill the roster accordingly. Not just with anybody, but the right talented guy and the right mix of person who will make the clubhouse a complete place. That was important to me and that was one of the things that led me to sign here: They're on board for winning. They're a winning family. It's a true success story Mr. Lerner shared with me of his life. I see them doing the proper steps and getting the guys that are really going to help this club get to the next level."
Q: What was the one thing the Nats sold you that really drove it home? And secondly, do you have any reaction to what's going on in Philadelphia this week with Cliff Lee coming back?
"I missed that in Philly. What happened? [laughter] ... Obviously, this is my first chance of getting to free agency. I worked so hard in the last few years and went through so much. I had a bad wrist injury that went misdiagnosed for a couple of seasons, and I missed an entire season due to that. When you finally get to free agency, you have a chance to do something special for yourself and for your family. There's a lot of things that go into it. But obviously the years were important to me. I have a chance to come to a city and be here for a long time. The no-trade was a big deal for me. I have a chance to set myself and my family up for years to come and have more of a solid base." [NOTE: The Nats gave Werth a full no-trade clause, the first time they have done that since arriving in D.C.]
Q: How much did the prospect of playing with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper down the road play into your decision?
"The young talent in this organization is immense. With the length of the contract I got, I felt good about the chances of this organization winning over the course of my contract. That was very important to me. I've been in the postseason a lot the last couple of years. That's what it's all about. That's what you play for. That's what you work out for. That's what you get to spring training early for. I hate to lose. I'm here to win."
Q: Why do you think you can still improve as a player at this stage of your career?
"I've been saying for a long time: The more I play, the better I'm going to get. I think it's been pretty evident. I think seeing pitches in an important part of the game, wearing pitching staffs down. The more pitches you get to see, the more apt you are to pick up the ball better. As time goes on, I think it makes you a better player."
Q: Was it hard to see the Phillies give Cliff Lee so much and not re-sign you?
"I've definitely moved on the past few months. I'm excited about being a National. Obviously the news in Philadelphia ... they got their boy back, I guess. That's fine. That's good. I like it. If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best. They make their plays and we're going to make ours. I think over the course of time, you're going to see and people are going to see the Washington Nationals are for real and they're going to play the style of baseball that's going to bring championships to this city."
More on becoming one of the faces of the franchise:
"The good thing is, I'm coming from a place where I got to see true professionals do that. Chase Utley. Jimmy Rollins. Ryan Howard. So I've had some learning, I guess, over the last few years of what it takes to be that type of guy: The franchise guy, or the face of the organization. But I think Ryan Zimmerman is that guy, and I don't think that's going to change a whole lot. I'm happy and on-board to do whatever the organization asks me. But realistically, I'm here to play baseball. I know what it takes to stay on the field and do what I do. That's my main focus. I'm sure there will be opportunities in many areas, and I'll greet those as they come along. But the main goal here is to win a World Series."
Q: Why was Werth your primary target this winter?
"This is the package that we were looking for going into the offseason. We wanted to get better skilled players that play both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. We've got a guy here who can hit 30-plus home runs, drive in 100 runs, play Gold Glove defense, steal you 20 bases, lead in the clubhouse and be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. The bigger the game, the better he's played in his career. He's playoff-battle tested. And he brings an edge to the ballclub. I've seen it oh too many times with the Phillies. That's the type of guy we want. And I think that's what separated him as far as those elite free-agent candidates we were looking at: His skill-set fit with what Jim and I are looking to do with the ballclub. But also his makeup, his persona and just the way he plays on a superstar-skill level and still plays like a guy that's not afraid to get his jersey dirty and would run through a wall for you."
Q: How do you answer critics who say this contract is going to be crippling down the road?
"I don't answer. I sleep like a baby knowing that we got Jayson Werth."
Q: How difficult was it to give Werth a no-trade clause?
"It was very difficult, one of the last sticking points that we had. ... I'd rather not have a no-trade clause. It's another impediment to roster construction. I would term it that way. A no-trade clause gives a player more control. That's why we were reluctant to do it. It's something that for an elite free agent like this, I thought I would relent on it. Because we had to do it to get the player."
Q: Where will Jayson hit in your lineup?
"Well, I really don't want to say something now and then we do it differently. But as the roster is right now, he and Ryan [Zimmerman] will hit 3 and 4. If we had a ballgame tomorrow, they'd be 3 and 4, and I'm not locked into which order that would be yet."
On the overall look of the lineup now:
"If we made out a lineup tomorrow, just about everyone we'd put out there can play their position and run. Hitting is very tough. It's tough to hit, I don't care who you are. ... So when guys aren't hitting, you still have to find ways to win games. And you can do that with some athleticism that guys like Jayson and Ryan and Ian and Espinosa have."
Q: Some guys wilt under the pressure of a big contract. What convinces you that Werth isn't like that?
"I think that's up to myself and the coaching staff to allow him to be the player. Whatever else comes, happens. We understand there's slumps. We understand there's high times. Just be the consistent individual who goes in that clubhouse every day with your head held high. We feel if you look up at the end of the yeat, those numbers will be there. Don't get caught up in all that other stuff. ... He's been through the wars in Philadelphia. Expectations were very high there, and he answered the bell."