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Jayson Werth's $126 million contract is easily the largest in Nationals history.
Let's see, there's Jayson Werth's seven-year, $126 million deal. And there's Ryan Zimmerman's five-year, $45 million extension. And then there's ... well, there really haven't been any others that deserve to be uttered in the same sentence as those two.
Which is fairly remarkable in and of itself. The Nationals have been in D.C. for seven years now, and during that time they've handed out a whopping two contracts whose total value exceeded $20 million.
Oh, they've tried to give out more than that. Remember the failed bids for Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke and (most
recently) Mark Buehrle? None of those guys, however, wanted to take Ted Lerner's money.
So in looking back at the largest contracts in Nationals history, it's perhaps most notable that to date the club has handed out only 13 deals that reached at least eight figures. And plenty of those deals didn't exactly pay off in the end.
Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?...
LARGEST CONTRACTS IN NATIONALS HISTORY
1. JAYSON WERTH
7 years, $126 million
Signed Dec. 5, 2010
The announcement of this deal didn't just send shockwaves through Washington. They reverberated around the entire baseball world, with observers in awe the previously low-spending Nationals had given out what was at the time the 14th-largest contract in major-league history to a 31-year-old outfielder who had never driven in 100 runs in a season and had been to one All-Star Game. Werth's inaugural season in D.C. didn't do much to stop the detractors from saying "I told you so," but the Nats are confident he'll revert to form in 2012 and beyond.
2. RYAN ZIMMERMAN
5 years, $45 million
Signed April 20, 2009
The young Face of the Franchise had said he wouldn't negotiate a contract extension once the regular season began. He held true to that, sort of. As legend has it, Zimmerman and the Nats agreed to this deal less than an hour before their Opening Day game in Miami, though it wasn't formally announced and signed for a couple more weeks. This deal expires at the end of the 2013 season, and pressure is already beginning to mount for the two sides to strike a new deal that will keep Zimmerman in D.C. for the rest of his career.
3. ADAM DUNN
2 years, $20 million
Signed Feb. 12, 2009
Jim Bowden had been an Adam Dunn fan for years, dating back to the day the then-Reds GM drafted the Big Donkey out of the University of Texas. So no one was surprised when Bowden lured Dunn to Washington, just two days before the start of spring training. Dunn proved to be exactly what the Nationals needed him to be: a hulking slugger who hit some towering shots in his two years here. But Mike Rizzo, who replaced Bowden less than three weeks after this signing was completed, didn't think it was worth matching the White Sox's four-year, $56 million offer for Dunn last winter. So far, Rizzo has been proven brilliant in this matter.
4. AUSTIN KEARNS
3 years, $17.5 million
Signed Feb. 1, 2007
Speaking of Bowden favorites ... the GM just couldn't resist acquiring another of his former first-round picks from Cincinnati during the 2006 All-Star break. And then he couldn't resist inking Kearns to a three-year extension the next winter (this after the outfielder hit .250 with eight homers in his first 63 games with the Nationals). He never came close to earning that new deal, producing a TOTAL of 26 homers, 123 RBI and a .240 average over the next three seasons.
5. CRISTIAN GUZMAN
4 years, $16.8 million
Signed Nov. 16, 2004
Bowden's very first moves upon being named GM of what was still at that time being called the Expos (even though the franchise had already moved to D.C.) were to sign Guzman and third baseman Vinny Castilla (two years, $6 million) as free agents. Rival executives couldn't believe anyone would give Guzman (at that point a career .266 hitter with the Twins) a four-year deal. And when he needed a September charge to finish the 2005 season with a .219 average, the contract certainly didn't look good. After missing 2006 with a shoulder injury, though, Guzman did start hitting in 2007 and 2008 ... which led Bowden to give him another questionable contract.
6. NICK JOHNSON
3 years, $16.5 million
Signed March 11, 2006
When healthy, Johnson was truly a gifted ballplayer. He ranked among the league leaders in on-base percentage and doubles and played a smooth first base. Problem was, he was incapable of staying healthy. The closest he ever came to making it through an entire season unscathed came after signing this deal in 2006 ... until he broke his leg in a nasty collision with Kearns in late-September. He missed all of 2007 and was never the same player again.
7t. ADAM LaROCHE
2 years, $16 million
Signed Jan. 4, 2011
Desperately in need of a first baseman to replace Dunn, the Nationals focused on three possible veteran choices: Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee and LaRoche. Ultimately, Mike Rizzo wanted LaRoche for his reliable track record at the plate and smooth glove in the field. But LaRoche started complaining of a bum shoulder in spring training, later found out he had a torn labrum and after hitting .172 in 43 games had season-ending surgery.
7t. CRISTIAN GUZMAN
2 years, $16 million
Signed July 22, 2008
Few could have ever imagined the Nationals would re-sign Guzman after his terrible 2005 and injury-marred 2006 and 2007. But after the shortstop hit .313 during the first half of the 2008 season and earned a spot on the All-Star team, Bowden locked him up for two more years at nearly twice the salary he made on his first deal with the club. By year two of the deal, Guzman had lost his starting job to rookie Ian Desmond, and by July he had been traded to the Rangers.
7t. BRIAN SCHNEIDER
4 years, $16 million
Signed Jan. 17, 2006
After a strong 2005 season behind the plate, Schneider looked very much like the Nationals' long-term catcher. So Bowden locked him up for what appeared to be a modest contract at the time. Schneider, though, regressed as a hitter and after the 2007 season was traded along with Ryan Church to the Mets for Lastings Milledge. Bowden then signed veteran Paul LoDuca to a $5 million deal to replace Schneider behind the plate. Two days after the signing, LoDuca was outed as a steroids user in the Mitchell Report.
10. STEPHEN STRASBURG
4 years, $15.4 million
Signed Aug. 17, 2009
Remember all that talk coming from Scott Boras' office about Strasburg being worth $50 million out of San Diego State? Yeah, the pitching phenom didn't quite command that much. He did, however, still receive the biggest contract ever given to a draft pick. At the time, it sounded like a whole lot of money. Now that we've seen the way Strasburg can electrify an entire ballpark just by taking the mound, that $15.4 million seems like peanuts.
11. JASON MARQUIS
2 years, $15 million
Signed Dec. 22, 2009
In serious need of a veteran starter who could eat up innings, Rizzo signed Marquis to a deal that would pay him $7.5 million per season for two seasons. Marquis, though, looked terrible in the early going, then complained of elbow pain. He wound up missing nearly four months following surgery, then put up solid numbers this year before getting traded to the Diamondbacks on July 31.
12. ALFONSO SORIANO
1 year, $10 million
Signed Feb. 10, 2006
The Nationals didn't actually negotiate this contract with Soriano. It's what he was awarded in arbitration after the two sides couldn't agree to a deal on their own. (Little-remembered fact: Soriano actually lost his arbitration case; he was seeking $12 million.) When the dynamic player at first refused to move from second base to left field, this looked like a total disaster. But once Soriano relented, he proceeded to put together an electric, 40-40 season that had fans loving him. Bowden let him walk to the Cubs the next winter for a staggering eight-year, $134 million contract, and happily accepted two draft picks as compensation. Those picks turned into Jordan Zimmermann and Josh Smoker.
13. DMITRI YOUNG
2 years, $10 million
Signed July 28, 2007
Picked up off the scrap heap during spring training 2007, Young wound up making for an inspirational story in his first year in D.C. He hit .320 (still the highest mark for any Nationals regular since the franchise got to town), went to the All-Star Game and won NL Comeback Player of the Year honors. Common sense suggested it was unlikely Young would duplicate those feats, but Bowden couldn't say no to his heart and thus locked up the big first baseman to a two-year extension in late-July. Young wound up playing in only 50 games in 2008 and didn't appear in a single major-league game in 2009.