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Mariners Sign Veteran Outfielder; Is he “Werth” It?

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Jayson Werth
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Jayson Werth /
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This morning, the Seattle Mariners announced they had signed free agent and 16 year veteran Jayson Werth to a minor league deal. He will stay in Peoria for extended Spring Training, then join Tacoma. So the real question is: is Jayson “Werth” it?

I would promise you that I will keep the puns to a minimum, but that’s just not “Werth” my time. You see what I did there? What is “Werth” my time is trying to decipher what this signing might mean.

We must admit, the timing is quite odd. It certainly raises some questions. The biggest question might be, “why now”? After all, the team had a need for outfielders after Ben Gamel went down, yet GM Jerry Dipoto opted to give Ichiro a Major League contract rather than signing Werth.

Even Ichiro has been battling a calf injury for 10 days, and yet, the Mariners waited until camp was over to bring in Werth. So what is the deal? Have the Mariners been in on Werth for a long time, but he was unwilling to accept a minor league deal until now? Or did the Mariners interest peak in the last few days?

If it is the latter, it does beg the question, “why did they become interested only recently”? Is Ben Gamel’s back injury worse than they thought? Is somebody getting traded? Or is this simply a hedge against Ichiro after April?

All questions about the signing aside, lets look at what Werth can offer as a player. Or better yet, let’s see exactly what his “Werth” to the Mariners might be.

While battling a foot injury in 2017, Werth posted .226/.322/.396 with 10 homers and 4 steals in 70 games. Mediocre numbers to be sure. This combined with bad defense, led to a -0.3 fWAR for the season.

In fact, over the last 3 seasons, Werth has been, at best, a borderline 4th outfielder, although he did hit 21 homers in 2016. However, this is a minor league deal, so the Mariners lose nothing in signing him.

On the positive side of the ledger, Werth has graded out as an above average base-runner every year of his career. Even while battling the foot injury in 2017, he posted a 1.0 BrS (base running score) on Fangraphs (0 is average).

In addition to the base-running, Werth has shown an ability to take a walk throughout his career, posting an excellent 12% BB rate. Werth also crushes left-handed pitching, posting a career .293/.393/.538 slash against southpaw’s.

Even in 2017, Werth posted a solid .820 OPS against LHP. And in 2016, Werth bashed a .322/.411/.620 slash against southpaw’s.

Luke Arkins of Prospect Insider shared this interesting tweet, which shows Werth’s injury might have derailed a fairly successful season:

Extrapolated over a 162 game season, that is a 28 home run, 93 walks pace, with solid ratios to boot.

Overall, the signing of Jayson Werth is likely just a value play for Seattle. If he shows he can still play, you have a valuable veteran outfielder around. If not, you release him with no harm to your season.

Next: Mariners Prospect Bryson Brigman Ready to Breakout in 2018

However, I’ll leave you with this: if you had grand illusions that Ichiro would be a Mariners all season, this signing is a bad sign. The Mariners are hedging their bet. If Ichiro doesn’t perform right away, we might just see Jayson Werth sooner rather than later… assuming he is “Werth” it.