- Associated Press - Sunday, December 5, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. (AP) - Some general managers had just arrived at the winter meetings and some were not even at the winter meetings yet when the Washington Nationals made a startling announcement Sunday evening: They had agreed with right fielder Jayson Werth on a $126 million, seven-year contract.

“I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington,” new Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said.

The 31-year-old Werth, who helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series title, hit .296 this year in his fourth and final season with Philadelphia. He had an NL-high 46 doubles, 27 homers and 85 RBIs.

“To just spend money wildly on people is not the point. What we’re going to do is create an atmosphere … of winning,” Werth said on a conference call.

“I signed here to win, and I believe that we’re going to win. It’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to take some time,” he said.

His agreement was announced two days after the Nationals‘ cleanup hitter, Adam Dunn, left for a $56 million, four-year contract with the Chicago White Sox.

“We took some light criticism about Adam Dunn leaving,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said, speaking in the news conference room after the announcement. “People said it was the money. But it’s not about the money, as this deal shows. We gave Jayson Werth more.”

Werth’s contract matched the 12th-largest among current players, a huge deal for a player with only one All-Star selection to his credit. And coming relatively early in the free-agent market, it could have a trickle-down for others seeking new deals.

“Makes some of our contracts look pretty good,” said Alderson, whose Mets have been saddled with high-priced, underperforming players. “It’s a long time and a lot of money.”

Werth moves from the team that has won four straight NL East titles to one that finished last this year at 69-93 and hasn’t had a winning record since 2003 _ the franchise’s next-to-last season as the Montreal Expos.

“It kind of exemplifies phase two of the Washington Nationals‘ process,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “Phase one was scouting and player development, building the farm system. … Now it’s the time to go to the second phase and really compete for division titles and championships.”

As to why the Phillies didn’t re-sign him, Werth said, “It’s something they’re going to have to answer.”

“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. I did have a great time in Philadelphia,” he said. “Once you get to a point where you feel unwanted or you get a sense you’re not part of the plans, it’s time to move on. At that point, I was ready to go, and fortunately enough for me I found a home in Washington.”

Werth’s deal was negotiated by agent Scott Boras, who also negotiated big-money agreements with the Nationals for the last two No. 1 picks in the amateur draft, pitcher Stephen Strasburg in 2009 and catcher-outfielder Bryce Harper this year.

“We think he’s going to be a big piece of the puzzle,” Rizzo said. “We certainly have more holes to fill. We had more work to do, and we’re certainly aggressively going on from here and beyond.”

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