Ryan Zimmerman is at (or near) the end of the 6-year/$100M extension that he signed back in 2012, though the deal does included a club option for 2020 that would pay him the same $18M he’s making this season, unless the Washington Nationals buy it out for $2M.
The expectation, of course, given his injury history, and struggles trying to stay on the field in recent seasons, is that a likely result will be the Nationals buying him out and negotiating a new deal for what would be his 16th major league campaign (or his 14th season in terms of service time), since both sides seem amenable to a deal that would keep him in D.C. beyond 2019.
Zimmerman acknowledged that possibility in an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas back in July:
“I’m not going to ask for a multi-year, crazy deal. Money doesn’t matter to me anymore. I just want to keep playing baseball...
.... “but as far as like contract stuff, I’ll play on a one-year deal for I don’t know [how much]....
... I’ll go one year every year, I don’t think it really matters. At this point of my career, I’m not going to play 140 games anyway. If I give some flexibility money-wise and you go sign that guy back again, Matty Adams, have us kind of work together. I think that’s how a lot of teams are doing it at some positions. So, yeah, I think there’s options and we’ve always had a good relationship with Mark [Lerner] and Ted [Lerner] and Mike [Rizzo]. That’s the least of my worries right now.”
Zimmerman was working his way back from a partial plantar fascia rupture at that point, and he did return to the lineup in September, going 15 for 53 (.283/.345/.472) with one double and three home runs in 19 games (13 starts) down the stretch, doing all he could and helping the Nationals reach the Postseason.
He played in 52 games overall in the regular season, hitting nine doubles and six home runs, with a .257/.321/.415 line in 190 plate appearances, over which he was worth 0.1 fWAR.
In limited action in his fifth Postseason run, Zimmerman was 2 for 8 with one double going into Game 4 of the NLDS with the Dodgers last night, getting his second start in the series, with Rich Hill going against the Nationals in a potentially decisive game.
Zimmerman was 6 for 12 with a double, two home runs, and three walks head-to-head with Hill in their respective careers.
So going into the game, did the veteran infielder have any thoughts about where he’s been and what lies ahead?
“Not really,” Zimmerman said before the game.
“When you’re in the moment like that you don’t think about that sort of stuff.”
He was clear, however, that he isn’t thinking that this is the end of anything.
“I plan on playing more games,” he added. “I feel like a lot of people think I’m not going to play more games. But I feel good, I feel like I can still be very productive beyond this year.
“That being said, it doesn’t make these games any less meaningful. They still have great meaning. Any time you make the playoffs you want to take advantage of it. I think nobody takes the playoffs for granted, but some people get there a lot, some people get there once, some people never get there, you never know when it’s going to be your last chance. So I think you obviously take advantage of it.”
Has he given any thought to how rare it is these days for a player to spend his entire career with one organization?
“Yeah, I think it kind of goes back to sort of what we were talking about before, I don’t really reflect on that stuff now. I think you just kind of think about the task at hand and worry about what’s kind of in the present. I think there will be plenty of time for me to reflect on that later when I’m done. But I do feel very lucky to be able to do what I’ve done. It takes some give and take on both sides, on the player’s side and the organization, the team side. They have stuck with me through some injuries and some bad times and obviously I stuck with them through some bad times as well.
“But I think the situation that I’ve had here has been a special one. For me, my family’s close, my wife is from here, so I’m lucky, I get to see my kids for 81 games. A lot of guys are on the road. So I look at it more as I’m lucky to be in this situation. I think a lot of guys would love to have this situation, but don’t really have the opportunity that I’ve had. So I think I feel more lucky than anything.”
The Nationals are lucky to have Zimmerman too. His two-out, three-run home run in the fifth inning of last night’s game put the home team up 5-1 in their season-extending 6-1 win over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS.
He went 2 for 4 with a run scored and three RBIs overall.
“That was huge,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said of Zimmerman’s blast.
“He understands his role, but he came tonight and he got a chance to start and, man, what a huge moment for us. Proud of him.”
Zimmerman was asked in his own post game press conference if he could describe what he was thinking in the moment as he watched the home run go out.
“It’s hard to explain that kind of stuff,” Zimmerman said.
“Same thing I’m sure that [Max Scherzer] felt when he got out of that jam in the 7th inning, that’s why sports are special, you can’t replicate it, that’s why you work so hard during the season, offseason for times like that. And you fail a lot in those times as well, so I think when you do succeed and the team succeeds, you take some time to cherish that a little bit.”
Zimmerman’s teammates definitely appreciated what he was able to do to help them win and force a Game 5 in LA on Wednesday.
“It fired us up for sure,” Kurt Suzuki said. “That’s a big home run right there. Big spot for a big-time player. We were all pretty obviously excited when he hit that.”
“Franchise player,” Anthony Rendon told reporters.
“He’s been here forever. I think he played like two weeks in the minor leagues and got called up. So man, he means everything to this city and this team. He’s been here for so long. He’s the epitome of a great veteran, he’s been around this game, he knows how to play it, and, man, hopefully he can be around a little longer.”
“Ryan’s reputation, I mean everyone knows what Ryan can do,” Sean Doolittle said.
“It’s been phenomenal being a teammate of his. I think we first met each other back in ‘05 at the rookie development program. His career speaks for itself. He’s been clutch all his career. For him to have an opportunity to do something like that tonight, it truly helped us out at a key point in the game. It was truly special.”
It was one of many special moments for Zimmerman in his career in the nation’s capital, so, a reporter wanted to know, with his contract expiring, and last night’s game potentially his final one in D.C., was there any extra motivation when he stepped to the plate?
“There’s been a lot of people that think these are my last games,” Zimmerman said again.
“I really don’t think these are his last games,” Scherzer interjected. “All of you think it’s his last games.”
“The last home game they tried to give me like a standing ovation,” Zimmerman added. “I mean, I feel good. I think that we got plenty to go. But I mean, other than that, I think any time you play at home, especially postseason games, that’s why you play the game. This is what you live for and, obviously, the game’s here. But then even almost more so going to LA for Game 5 and Walker Buehler versus Stephen Strasburg with [Clayton] Kershaw probably available in the pen, I mean, this is why you play the game. This is what we live for.”