Posted on January 25, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Washington Nationals have made a lot of additions to their infield this offseason. But they made sure to leave room for a player who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of the Nationals franchise. Late Friday, the Nats agreed to a deal with veteran Ryan Zimmerman. It’s a one-year deal worth $2 million in base salary and up to $3 million in incentives based on games played and plate appearances. The deal will extend Zimmerman’s big league career by one more year as he helps the only franchise he’s ever known to defend its World Series title.
The 35-year-old Zimmerman has been with the Nationals since they drafted him fourth overall in the 2005 draft. At the time, Zimmerman was the first player the Nationals drafted as a franchise after relocating from Montreal. He made his big league debut later that year and has been in Washington ever since. After last year’s World Series, he made it clear that he would either return to the Nationals or retire.
“I think I’ve made my intentions pretty clear,” Zimmerman said earlier this offseason. “It’s either play some more here or play more golf.”
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Even after re-signing Howie Kendrick and adding Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Eric Thames earlier this winter, the Nationals still felt there was enough room for Zimmerman. Issues with plantar fasciitis kept him sidelined for long stretches in 2019. However, Zimmerman was around to help the Nationals during the postseason, hitting .255 with five extra-base hits in 55 at-bats.
In 2020, Zimmerman is likely to find himself in a platoon at first base with Thames. That could restrict his playing time to facing left-handed starters and pinch-hit appearances. Given the time he’s missed due to injuries the past two seasons, a part-time role might suit Zimmerman. Moreover, he crushed left-handed pitching last year, hitting .367 with an OPS of .966, albeit in just 39 at-bats. Those numbers are on par with what Zimmerman has done against southpaws throughout his career, so the Nationals are putting him in a position to succeed by having him platoon with Thames.
Adding Zimmerman will clear up some of Washington’s plans for the infield this season. Zimmerman and Thames will share time at first base with Kendrick also being an option there. Meanwhile, Trea Turner is locked in as the team’s starting shortstop. That will leave some combination of Kendrick, Cabrera, Castro, and prospect Carter Kieboom at handle second base and third base. Kieboom figures to get a shot to claim the job at third base with Cabrera and Kendrick being fallback options. At second base, Castro could be the favorite, although both Kendrick and Cabrera could see time there also.
In addition to what he can still provide on the field, the Nationals are keeping an important team leader. He commands respect and will continue to set an example for Washington’s younger players. With the Nationals gearing up to defend their world championship, it seems fitting for Zimmerman to stick around for at least one more year.
“Love him,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said of Zimmerman earlier this month. “He’s a guy that, someday, there will be a statue with his likeness on it here in center field.”