Ryan Zimmerman's right. It's not fair that so much talk right now is about his contract and his future in the nation's capital when the most-anticipated season in the team's short history in the nation's capital is getting underway. Granted there are a few other stories coming out of Viera, Florida with the Nats' manager, coaches and catcher working on tweaking Edwin Jackson's delivery cause they think he's tipping his pitches when he throws from a full windup and Davey Johnson's coaches trying to hide how much they like Bryce Harper because they know what a big story the 19-year-old's first real run at the Opening Day roster is this Spring and as the 69-year-old skipper told reporters today (including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore), "'... they like him. They don’t want to try to influence me in any manner.'"
Harper's not the only young player getting coverage. 2011 3rd Round pick Matt Purke threw in front of Nats' manager Davey Johnson as NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman reported this afternoon, and the 21-year-old left-hander impressed with Johnson telling reporters he liked the 21-year-old's delivery and the way the ball was coming out of his hand, which is good news when you're talking about an '09 1st Round pick (14th overall by Texas) whose shoulder woes last season resulted in his being available in the 3rd Round where the Nationals drafted him 93rd overall and signed him to a well-above slot 4-year/$4.15M dollar major league deal. Do you know where Purke went to college?
The young Nats' lefty unwittingly became a topic of discussion when that question and some of what Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell said in a chat yesterday about D.C. area tv and radio reporters was reprinted by the WaPost's Dan Steinberg in a D.C. Sports Bog post this morning entitled, "Tom Boswell says TV and radio hosts contribute to D.C. not being a baseball town", that got the nation's capital's writers and tv and radio personalities talking, culminating in the Washington Post's Mr. Boswell's appearance on the Mike Wise Show with Holden Kushner where they all discussed and squashed the controversy. If you like Nationals-related drama this one's for you.
The shoulder the Washington Nationals should really be concerned about, however, belongs to first baseman Adam LaRoche not Matt Purke or even Anthony Rendon. LaRoche, "... probably won't know until the final week or two of spring training," that his shoulder is 100% recovered NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman wrote this morning in an article entitled, "LaRoche still working his way back." Why is that a big concern? Under doctors orders, the left-handed hitting and throwing LaRoche isn't back to throwing freely yet and hasn't yet attempted, "... to long-toss the ball from more than 90 feet," though he told reporters he was comfortable swinging. As D.C. GM Mike Rizzo reiterated again today in an interview with MLB.com's Bill Ladson, the Nats' offense this year is expecting a lot from the 32-year-old first baseman in the second-year of his 2-year/$16M dollar deal.
"'We had offensive questions last year, but we tend to forget that we played almost the whole season without Adam LaRoche, who averaged 25 home runs and 80 RBIs the last six seasons, excluding last year,'" Rizzo told MLB.com's Mr. Ladson in the Q&A entitled, "Rizzo likes what he sees as Nats prep for year", and though they didn't find the outfield bat they wanted this winter, the GM continues to say that he thinks, "'... having LaRoche, [Ryan] Zimmerman and [Jayson] Werth at their career norms will take care of any offense that we were lacking last year.'"
Taking care of the offensive issues from last year, however, takes a back seat for the next two days to taking care of the so-called Face of the Nationals' franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, who has set a Friday deadline to work out an extension with the team. The two sides have talked for some time now. The 27-year-old '05 1st Round pick is coming off an injury shortened 2011 campaign in which he dealt with a torn abdominal muscle which eventually required surgery. Zimmerman played just 101 games, making 440 plate appearances over which he had a .289/.355/.443 line and was worth +2.5 fWAR a year after a .307/.388/.510, +7.2 fWAR 2010 season.
The 2011 season weakend his bargaining position some, a fact the Nats' third baseman freely admits in the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell's article on the negotiations entitled, "Nationals spring training: Time to deal with Ryan Zimmerman." Prepare yourself for this next quote and try not to yell out, "JUST SIGN HIM ALREADY!" when you read it. "'I really want to stay here,'" the Nationals' first 1st Round pick tells the WaPost's Mr. Boswell, "'It might even be good that I’m coming off an injury year. It makes the price lower and a deal easier, you’d think. Whatever happens, it’s more than I can ever spend. So I don’t want to be greedy.'" The Nats' GM Mike Rizzo tells MLB.com's Mr. Ladson the team wants a deal too, "'We are working hard on it and we have been working on it for a long time,'" the general manager says, "'When two people want something, we think we can get something done." The WaPost's Mr. Boswell, of course, suggests it's not the GM's decision on a contract this big and he has ideas about what's prevented an agreement thus far.
Zimmerman says that the Nats and his agent have until Friday to work something out then he doesn't want to discuss it anymore this year since the season's really getting started. There are two years left on the 5-year/$45M dollar extension Zimmerman signed in 2009. The Nats' third baseman was coming off an injury-filled '08 season when he and the Nats agreed on the last extension. The goal then was to get an extension done before Opening Day after Zimmerman avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year/$3.325M dollar deal in February. The negotiations would end on Opening Day so he they wouldn't be a distraction to the team Zimmerman told reporters at the time. They finally agreed on the deal on April 20th.