The days of the Jayson Werth contract eating up dollars on the payroll will come to an end after the 2017 season. For the past three seasons, Werth has made a minimum of $20 million. This will continue through this upcoming season. After that, the Washington Nationals are finally free of him.

Werth hasn’t been an absolute drag for the Nationals but he has underperformed based on salary.

Through his six seasons in Washington, Werth has never been to an All-Star Game. He has hit 20 home runs three times for the Nationals, but in two of those seasons, he was a sub-.250 hitter.

Overall, Werth has provided the Nationals with a .267/.358/.437 slash line. Injuries have hurt him, as they’ve cut his 2012 and 2015 campaigns in half. This still doesn’t make up for the fact that when healthy, he has never been all that great.

The $21 million the Nationals will have available for the payroll in 2018 is incredibly valuable. Some can be used for arbitration players or can aid in adding a free agent or filling other needs along the way.

Where the Nationals are in 2018 will determine the wisest way to spend this new money. The franchise has yet to have a true rebuilding process but could be headed there. The extra money to spend and some big contracts already on the books suggest a win now attitude.

Next year’s crop of free agents include some notable names. If the Nationals still need a catcher, Jonathan Lucroy could become a target. In their search for a new outfielder to replace Werth, they have several options too. Slugger J.D. Martinez is a good name to consider. They may also have interest in Lorenzo Cain as the center fielder should they choose to move Adam Eaton to a corner spot.

As far as pitchers go, many of the top names should receive above the $20 million Werth is earning in 2017. Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are in the final years of their contracts. Johnny Cueto may always opt out of his deal with the San Francisco Giants.

Spending big on a starting pitcher is probably not the most prudent move for the Nationals. Replacing what Werth gave should be the primary goal. Thus, setting their sights on signing an outfielder with power should be the mission.

The other approach the Nationals could take is one that provides them more depth. Rather than allocate the funds into one player, they could choose to build a better overall roster. This might be the best solution. The Nationals would prevent themselves from making one regrettable move.

Most importantly, the Nationals have to spend the money. They aren’t going to win by pinching pennies.

Losing Werth’s contract is a huge blessing for the Nationals. The extra funds will allow them the opportunity to pursue more talent, thus increasing their odds in 2018.

Tim Boyle is a Staff Writer for Outside Pitch MLB covering the Washington Nationals. Follow Tim on Twitter.

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