Nats have been the second biggest spenders this winter – was it worth it?

According to Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors, the Washington Nationals spent the second most money this offseason by shelling out $128.5 million in December. The club fell short of the first place Boston Red Sox who spent $172 million:

  1. Boston Red Sox – $172MM ($142MM contract for Carl Crawford, $12.5MM option forDavid Ortiz, $12MM contract for Bobby Jenks, $3MM contract for Dan Wheeler, $2MM contract for Jason Varitek, $455K option for Scott Atchison)
  2. Washington Nationals – $128.5MM ($126MM contract for Jayson Werth, $1.5MM contract for Rick Ankiel, $1MM contract for Chien-Ming Wang)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies – $125.5MM ($120MM contract for Cliff Lee, $5.5MM contract forJose Contreras)
  4. Chicago White Sox – $120.25MM ($56MM contract for Adam Dunn, $37.5MM contract for Paul Konerko, $13MM contract for Jesse Crain, $8MM contract for A.J. Pierzynski, $3MM option for Matt Thornton, $1.75MM extension for Omar Vizquel, $1MM option forRamon Castro)

As a Nats fan it is amazing to see my team finally among the top spenders in the league. Many in Washington began to become disenchanted with baseball in D.C. towards the end of the embarrassingly bad 2009 campaign, but their willingness to spend in 2010 has been a symbol of their transformation. They have spent more money, by far, than any other franchise in the amateur draft over the past two seasons, and now they are one of the top spenders in winter to boot.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m thrilled with how that money has been divvied up though.

Most notably, the Nationals entered the winter with two major needs: a top of the line starting pitcher and an everyday first baseman. Unfortunately they are quickly approaching spring training and have acquired none of those needs, despite the massive amounts of money they have spent. While they made strong bids for Cliff Lee and Zack Greinke, in reality they were only able to land a couple of possibly washed up former stars (Wang and Ankiel) and a frontline starting outfielder, Jayson Werth. Furthermore, they failed to lock up the player who ended up being the most valuable first baseman on the market, Adam Dunn.

Now, failing to meet your offseason goals isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes the cards just don’t fall your way. Lee clearly wanted to go back to the city where he previously won a World Series, regardless of money. A deal for Greinke was in place but was vetoed, and there just wasn’t a large market for first-basemen not named Adam Dunn this winter. However, if a team is going to go out and spend the second most money out of any team in baseball, committing to hundreds of millions of dollars, you’d expect that money to at the very least go a long way, if not make the team better. 

While the Nationals added Jayson Werth (5.0 WAR), Ankiel (0.7 WAR) and Wang (DNP), they also lost Josh Willingham (2.7 WAR) and Adam Dunn (3.9 WAR), equalling a net loss for the winter of 2010. Not the most encouraging sign for a team that can’t afford to show anything but progress on the field in 2011.

Breaking down the numbers, it also doesn’t look like the club got as much bang for their buck this winter as other teams:

1. Red Sox $172 million -12.5 WAR acquired –  $13.76 million per WAR (note this doesn’t include trade for Adrian Gonzalez)
2. Nationals $128.5 million – 5.7 WAR acquired – $22.5 million per WAR
3. Phillies – $125.5 million – 7.8 WAR acquired – $16 million per WAR
4. White Sox – $120.25 million- 14.3 WAR acquired – $8.4 million per WAR

The White Sox won the winter by accumulating the most amount of talent for the least amount of money. They are also the only team listed above who didn’t sign any players to a $100 million contract this off-season. Makes you wonder about the strategy Rizzo has taken, doesn’t it?