Back in 2010, Jayson Werth was flying high in Philadelphia. The outfielder had just batted .296 with 27 home runs and 85 RBIs, along with a league-leading 46 doubles. In a lineup that included Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins, there was a possibility of being overlooked, but that didn’t make Werth any less of a valuable contributor.
Werth’s value became apparent when he reached the open market after the 2010 season. While the Phillies turned their attention to surprise reunion with Cliff Lee, Werth went on to sign a seven-year/$126 million dollar contract with the Washington Nationals, who were coming off a 93-loss season. It was shocking, seeing a star player go to a division rival for such a large sum of money.
Many likely thought back to this instance when it was announced former Nationals star Bryce Harper had signed a 13-year/$330 million deal with the Phillies this past week. Having been a teammate with Harper for six seasons, Werth appeared on Sports Radio 94 WIP on Saturday, talking to Howard Eskin on a number of topics involving the Phillies’ newest addition. Sports Talk Philly‘s Matt Rappa gave a summary of the interview.
Werth gave a raving report on Harper, telling Eskin that “he gets on base, he has a good eye.” What appears to stick out to Werth, however, is the power potential. “The power, especially in that ballpark, I think is something that hasn’t [been taken advantage of] since Ryan Howard.” There is a definite sense that Harper could have one of his most productive years ever now that he will be spending half of the season at Citizens Bank Park. His 14 home runs at Citizens Bank are his most at any stadium besides Nationals Park, and he also has an OPS of .930 while playing in Philadelphia. It also helps that the Phillies added plenty of protection for Harper in the lineup, like J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura.
Beyond his abilities, Werth also showed he was high on Bryce’s character, explaining how much of his life he’s dedicated to baseball, and how Harper is a player that works hard and plays hard day in and day out. Later on, Werth labeled Harper as a “once-in-a-generational-talent.”
Werth also talked about how Harper will handle the expectations of playing in Philadelphia. Certainly, a $330 million deal will bring out expectations of World Series victories and Most Valuable Player awards. “He knows what’s at stake. I’m sure he’s well aware of that.” Werth explained how the expectations could have possibly been a reason for why it took Bryce so long to sign.
Werth mentioned that he and Harper discussed playing in Philadelphia. “I let him know the fans were ‘ever-dearing’ and that it would be a good place to play.” Werth emphasized how great of a sports town that Philadelphia is. It shows, as the record was broken for the most jerseys sold within the first 24 hours after Harper signed with the Phillies. Clearly, Harper did his research when making his decision. He had also touched base with New Jersey-native Mike Trout on Philadelphia as well during his free agency.
Additionally, Werth gave some thoughts on managing partner John Middleton, the man who played a crucial part in orchestrating Harper’s signing. “He’s got a great feel for the team. He’s a hands-on owner.” Throughout the free-agent process, Middleton was heavily involved. He was the one who kicked off the offseason with his ‘stupid money,’ comments, and was present at the meeting with Bryce Harper in Las Vegas in January (along with general manager Matt Klentak, president Andy MacPhail and manager Gabe Kapler). Middleton also flew to Las Vegas in late February and met with Harper again shortly before the Phillies reached an agreement with the six-time All-Star.
By signing Harper, Werth explained, it shows the kind of organization Middleton is trying to build, which is a winner. It’s hard to dispute that, as the Phillies added three players this offseason who were All-Stars – and that says nothing of Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson, two other former All-Stars added to the fold.
On top of speaking well of the Phillies newest signing, it’s also nice to see Werth speak highly of Philadelphia. After his departure from Philadelphia, Werth had some up-and-downs with the fanbase. However, feeling appeared to be mended after Werth was applauded during a 2008 World Series Champions reunion at Citizens Bank this past summer.
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