The Washington Nationals, Ryan Zimmerman And The Return Of The "Extend-Zim" Chatter.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 19: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals hits a game-winning grand slam in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on August 19, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Nationals won the game 8-4. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

The "Extend Ryan Zimmerman Movement" (hashtag #extendZim*) made its way onto the pages of Yahoo!Sports.com's Big League Stew, with Kevin Kaduk (aka 'Duk) discussing the conversation that's come up once again after the Washington Nationals announced what is reportedly a 5-year/$42 million dollar extension with newly-acquired left-hander Gio Gonzalez on Sunday afternoon. Zimmerman, the Nats' 3rd baseman and first 1st Round pick, is heading into the next-to-last year of the 5-year/$45 million dollar extension the then-24-year-old signed in April 2009. The '05 1st Round pick, taken with the 4th overall selection in the franchise's first draft following their relocation from Montreal, was coming off a .283/.333/.442 2008 season in which the 4th-year pro had 24 doubles and 14 HR's in 106 games and 466 plate appearances and was in the midst of what would end up being a 30-game hit streak when he signed the five-year extension in early '09. Zimmerman had missed 48 games in '08 recovering from a small labrum tear in his left shoulder...

Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, who'd taken over for Jim Bowden just weeks earlier, referred to Zimmerman as the face of the franchise before the deal was officially announced back in 2009, telling MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "Nats, Zimmerman agree to extension", that the third baseman, "... is a vital part of the franchise, both as the face of the franchise and one of its star players." After hitting for a combined .299/.375/.518 line in 2009-10 with 69 doubles and 58 HR's in 299 games and 1,296 PA's, winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award in '09 and Silver Slugger in 2010 in seasons he finished at +7.3 and +7.2 fWAR, respectively, Zimmerman was asked about signing an extension during the beginning of Spring Training in 2011.

Zimmerman said at the time, as quoted by Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore in an article entitled, "Ryan Zimmerman wants to keep calling Washington home, but the Nationals will have to make it happen", that he would like to sign on long-term in D.C., provided he thought the team was headed in the right direction, which he did, sooner than others thought he explained, and provided an extension happened before he headed into the final year of his current contract in 2013. "If you get to two years left [before] free agency, you can talk," the bland-by-design 26-year-old infielder told reporters, "'But if nothing works out, if you have one year before free agency, you might as well play your year out and see what happens.'"

Thus the urgency on the part of Nationals fans to see a deal done before the 2012 season starts, since Zimmerman has previously expressed a desire to avoid negotiating during the season. In mid-November 2011, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told reporters that the team had already, "... initiated talks about a contract extension," as FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote in an 11/16/11 article in which he quoted the Nats' general manager saying, "'It’s important to us. We’ve already begun preliminary discussions with his people. He’s an important piece for us, a guy that we would like to have here long-term.'"

As Yahoo!Sports.com's 'Duk noted this afternoon, however, the torn abdominal muscle Zimmerman suffered last season, which eventually required surgery and limited the seven-year veteran to 101 games and 404 plate appearances, "... has complicated things a bit,":

"That injury was just bad medical luck, but I'm guessing the injury delayed Zimmerman's dreams of landing a Troy Tulowitzki- or Ryan Braun-type contract this early in the process (especially when there were/are other trophies to be bagged)."

Tulowitzki, the Rockies' shortstop, and the 7th overall pick in the '05 Draft, was 26, in the third year of a 6-year/$31 million dollar extension and coming off a .315/.381/.568 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-worthy 2010 season in which he'd hit 32 doubles and 27 HR's in 122 games and 529 plate appearances and was worth +6.5 fWAR when he signed an extension of his extension which left the shortstop with a 10-year/$157.75 million dollar deal that will keep him Colorado through 2020. Braun, the 5th overall pick in '05 by the Brewers, was 27 and in the fourth year of an 8-year/$45 million dollar deal when he and Milwaukee agreed last April on a 5-year/$105 million dollar extension which covers the 2016-2020 seasons with an option for 2021. Braun was coming off a .304/.365/.501 2010 campain in which he hit 45 doubles and 25 HR's and finished the year at +4.4 fWAR.

Zimmerman finished the 2011 season at +2.5 fWAR, with a .289/.355/.479 line, 21 doubles and 12 HR's in 101 games and 440 plate appearances, numbers in line with career norms had he played a full season, but he once again missed time with an injury and endured some questions/criticism for the aesthetic damage he did as he worked out some issues with revamped throwing mechanics he believed would benefit him as a professional with plans for a long career at third base. In the end, Yahoo!Sports.com's 'Duk wonders if Zimmerman might not be better off waiting to see how some of the other rumored moves this winter work out.

"[Zimmerman's] leverage could really be bolstered if Fielder decides to sign elsewhere," 'Duk writes, referring to the rumors which have Prince Fielder considering D.C., "and GM Mike Rizzo catches a glance of the upcoming free agent fields, which are relatively thin on star power." Or Zimmerman's leverage could be bolstered if the Nats do sign Fielder (though much like the current Fielder vs Josh Hamilton chatter, some wonder whether the Rangers/Nationals can afford both players) and Zimmerman has another two years like his 2009 and '10 campaigns, aka the last time he was hitting in front of a big middle of the order bat. The Nats might want to lock Zimmerman up long-term before he prices himself out of D.C. with a full-year hitting in the lineup Washington would have with Fielder's bat in the nation's capital. (ed. note - "Zimmerman will, of course get paid for what he's done his whole career, not just for the last season, but the idea of 'leverage' is what's being discussed here.")

The player wants to sign and stay in one place, at third in Nationals Park as long as possible. The Nationals, publicly, through their GM, have said they too are interested in getting an extension done. Nats' skipper Davey Johnson, after watching Zimmerman hit a walk-off grand slam to beat the Phillies on August 19th pretty much summed up how all of NatsTown thinks of the face of the Nats' franchise. "'He's one of those great players that's totally in control in those tough situations," Johnson said, "He's very calm. The rest of us get a little excited, but he doesn't." Zim's clutch. Though we all know "clutch" doesn't really exist. #extendZim.

• LINKS: Can/Will/Should the Nationals make the Mr. National a National for life?:

• "Well, if they wind up signing Fielder for $150 million-plus, the prospects of keeping Zimmerman in D.C. diminish by a significant amount..." - "Addressing the Fielder rumors" - Mark Zuckerman, NatsInsider.com

• "The Nationals, if they’re inclined, do not have to choose between Ryan Zimmerman and Prince Fielder." - "For the Nationals, Prince Fielder or Ryan Zimmerman is only a choice if they make it one" - Adam Kilgore, Nationals Journal - The Washington Post

• "But what about that other guy, Ryan Zimmerman? Where does the (former?) Face of the Franchise fit in in Mike Rizzo's Phase 2?" - "What about Zim?" - Nats Enquirer

• (ed. note - " * = this hashtag isn't really out there.")

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