Age on Opening Day 2016: 36
How acquired: Signed as free agent, 2010
2016 salary: $21 million
2015 stats: 88 G, 378 PA, 51 R, 73 H, 16 2B, 3B, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 0 SB, 38 BB, 84 SO, .221 BA, .302 OBP, .384 SLG, .685 OPS, 84 OPS+, 2 E, -1.6 WAR
2016 storyline: When the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million free agent contract back in 2010, many had strong opinions on the length of the deal for an outfielder who was then 31 years old. Some said the Nats would regret the contract big-time in the later years of the deal. Some said they would be fine, that he would age better than the average outfielder and still provide value as he progressed through his mid-30s.
Well, now we will finally find out who was right, as Werth enters the 2016 season at age 36. He turns 37 in May and has just one year left on that massive contract after 2016.
Werth's 2015 season was one that was heavily affected by injuries. He played in only 88 games and hit a mere .221. This was after two consecutive seasons where he earned MVP votes and was a central part of the Nationals' lineup. He will hope for better health in 2016, and so will the Nationals who could still very much use his experienced and patient approach, wherever he ends up hitting in their order.
Best-case scenario: If Werth can return to his 2013 and 2014 form, then the Nationals will be much better because of it. In those two seasons Werth averaged 138 games, 20 homers, 82 RBI, 30 doubles, 84 runs, a .304 BA and an .887 OPS. He even averaged 10 steals per season. Talk about defying his age.
If Werth had put up anything close to those numbers in 2015, he would have been the Nats' second-best position player behind Bryce Harper. Harper, as good as he was in 2015 and as good as he can be moving forward, needs help. Werth can provide it as well as anyone on their roster.
Worst-case scenario: The injuries Werth suffered over the last calendar year could have long-term implications, and he knows it. There are questions about the strength in his right shoulder and his left wrist. Both have been operated on recently and both took away some of his power at the plate. Whether he can still drive balls into the gap and hit doubles and home runs is a legitimate question. Though, it's important to note, he did manage 12 homers in 88 games in 2015, despite that fact.
Werth's defense is also a question now, as he at times looked his age in the Nationals' outfield in 2015. There are reasons the Nationals were in on Jason Heyward and Yoenis Cespedes this winter and Werth's diminishing capabilities on defense are part of it.
A worst-case scenario could involve Werth staying on the field and off the disabled list, but looking like an old player who struggles to regain the form of who he used to be.
Most-likely scenario: Given Werth was so good in the two years before 2015, it's probably smart to give him the benefit of the doubt. He was, after all, excellent in his age 35 season. Even if he falls short of the numbers he put up in 2014, he could still provide solid value at age 37.
Baseball Reference projects him to somewhat bounce back with a .265 average in 452 plate appearances. They do, however, see him clubbing 15 homers and holding a 791 OPS. That's not bad.
FanGraphs has him hitting .266 with 13 homers and 51 RBI in 104 games with a .350 OBP and .769 OPS. Both sites project him to be somewhere in the middle of what he did in 2014 and 2015, which sounds about right.