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2016 Nats roster outlook: Can Jayson Werth return to form?

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2016 Nats roster outlook: Can Jayson Werth return to form?

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.

[RELATED: Bryce Harper gives emotional acceptance speech for MVP award]

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A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

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USA TODAY Sports

A quick recap of Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game, including how your Nats did

Tuesday evening's All-Star game was fairly uneventful until its later innings. The American League triumphed over the National League, 8 - 6, for their sixth straight All-Star game victory.

Despite fears of potential rain and inclement weather delaying the game, there were no unexpected stops in play. 

The AL started very strong offensively, with runs from Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in the top of the second and third innings, respectively. Jean Segura's three-run homer in the top of the eighth made victory look inevitable for the AL by the fifth. 

Max Scherzer, unsurprisingly, was well received among fans at Nationals Park. The Nats starter pitched the first two innings, giving up four hits. One was Judge's second-inning homer, but Scherzer remained unfazed and lighthearted. Four strikeouts made his performance commendable.

Bryce Harper did not get on as well, striking out in both of his at-bats. After Harper's Home Run Derby win last night, there was chatter of him going for the MVP title as well. 

It didn't work out, but given Harper's consistent presence at the All-Star game, there's always another chance.

Elsewhere in the dugout for the NL, who rallied back from the three-run deficit, the kids were all right. Willson Contreras of the Cubs had a solo homer at the bottom of the third, the Rockies' Trevor Story had one in the seventh, and Christian Yelich added another in the eighth. A two-run homer by Scooter Gennett in the bottom of the ninth brought the game back to a 5-5 tie.

Jesus Aguilar struck out for the NL, and extra innings began.

In the top of the tenth, Alex Bregman and George Springer, both of the Astros, hit home runs almost immediately off of Dodgers pitcher Ross Stipling. Stop us if you've heard that one before.

With no outs, Michael Brantley took a sacrifice flyout to right field, and Jean Segura got in one more run to put the score at 8-5.

Though Joey Votto (Reds) hit one last home run in the bottom of the tenth, the NL couldn't quite make up the deficit.

After a late night, the American League will be going home happy.

MORE ALL-STAR GAME NEWS:

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Live Blog

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 MLB All-Star Game Live Blog

This is the year's most ambitious crossover event in baseball. Dozens of MLB standouts from dozens of teams ally along either the National or American league. The two teams play against each other in a lighthearted frankensquad matchup. It's a welcome change of pace, considering how stressed we are about the Nationals' win percentage.

At the moment, we're keeping our eyes to the sky to monitor incoming rain. Aside from the threat of rain delay, we're excited to see how things unfold.

TOP 10 - Yikes, uh, so that's two solo home runs, and still no outs?

BOT 9 - A lot of people have either Bad Bunny or Post Malone as their walk up music. Also, uh, Scooter did a two-run homer, so now we're going to extra innings.

TOP 9 - Nothing is happening. Yawn.

BOT 8 - Yelich homers! We love one Brewer! It's 5-3 AL.

TOP 8 - Segura hits a three-run homer. Cruz adds it to his Instagram story. The AL is up 5-2. Yikes.

TOP 8 - Blackmon is very charming when mic'd up. He's talking about how lonely the outfield is. In other adjacent boredom news, Mike Trout follows over 145 weather related accounts on twitter. Yes, we went through his 2,400 user long following list to check.

BOT 7 - Bottoms tend to be the most exciting. Arenado knows this. So he tied it with a solo homer.

TOP 7 - Please, we are all so tired, and this pace is so slow. Votto has a nice tag, Yelich loses a ball in the lights but still makes the out. 

BOT 6 - Everybody Hates The National League. Votto, Yelich, and Blackmon all come up short.

INT 6 - Everyone on the internet and the broadcast loses their minds over Manny Machado.

TOP 6 - Nelson Cruz goes up against pitcher Jeremy Jeffress to start the inning. We take a brief pause for another selfie. Isn't it kind of a bad idea to have your phone in your pocket when you're at bat? Anyway. Bregman hits a double, but is immediately outshined as we go to Manny Machado for an interview about how it feels to wear an Orioles uniform for (maybe) the last time. Limor pinch hits for Machado, and doesn't quite get it out of the park. Oh well.

BOT 5 - Contreras gets a hit off Jose Berrios and promptly gets tagged first. Javier Baez looks amazing at the plate, but flies out. Arenado walks. Trout-man catches Molina's almost-homer. NL, do better please.

TOP 5 - Aaron Nola strikes out Brandon Crawford fairly easily and Mookie Betts not so easily. Mike Trout, who looks like he would post pictures with trout and other fish on Instagram, pops up and across the first base line. Sorry AL.

BOT 4 - Bryce Harper faces Blake Snell and strikes out for the second time tonight. Maybe he thought tonight was a Strikeout Derby?

TOP 4 - Machado pops up to the third baseman in what may be his final at-bat wearing an Orioles uniform.

TOP 4 - Matt Kemp deftly avoids tampering charges when the FOX broadcast crew asks him about his selfie with Machado.

BOT 2 - Manny begins acquainting himself with his LA teammates.

BOT 2 - Chris Sale only stuck around for one inning, apparently. It's Luis Severino time in D.C. He allows a double from Matt Kemp to start but then strikes out Bryce Harper. 

TOP 2 - Aaron Judge takes Scherzer deep. 1-0 AL. Sigh.

BOT 1 - AL Starter Chris Sale responds with a scoreless frame of his own. We're on our way to that 3-2 thriller after all!!! 

TOP 1 - Scherzer strikes out Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve before walking Mike Trout (can't blame him) and allowing a hit to J.D. Martinez. No damage done though, and it's 0-0. 

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