There were so many questions about how Ryan Zimmerman’s contract with the Washington Nationals was coming to an end, how his option for 2020 was unlikely to be picked up, and how the games he was playing, as Washington advanced deep into the postseason, could, potentially, be his last with the team that drafted and developed him, that teammate, Max Scherzer, stood up for him in a dual press conference in the nation’s capital following their series-extending Game 4 win in the NLDS.
Zimmerman went 2 for 4 with a three-run home run and a single in that game, a 6-1 win that sent the series back to LA for Game 5 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Reporter: Zim, your contract’s expiring and this could be your last game before a home crowd. Did you have any extra oomph at your at-bats, especially with the home run and a single right afterwards?
RYAN ZIMMERMAN: “There’s been a lot of people that think these are my last games...”
MAX SCHERZER: “I really don’t think these are his last games. All of you think it’s his last games.”
RYAN ZIMMERMAN: “The last home game they tried to give me like a standing ovation, I mean, I feel good. I think that we got plenty to go.”
He believes he has more to offer as well, as he stated throughout the run to the World Series.
Zimmerman missed significant time on the Injured List with complications from plantar fasciitis and an eventual partial plantar fascia rupture, but he returned to the lineup after his second stint on the IL to play in 19 games down the stretch, starting 13, and he went 15 for 53 (.283/.345/.472) in the last month of the season to finish the year with a .257/.321/.415 line, nine doubles, six home runs, and 89 wRC+ in 52 games and 190 plate appearances, in which he was worth a total of 0.1 fWAR.
Nats won’t pick up Ryan Zimmerman’s $18M option but word is they are interested in bringing him back (on a lower aav of course)— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 3, 2019
In his fifth postseason run, the 35-year-old, 15-year veteran went 14 for 55 (.255/.317/.418) in 16 games, with three doubles and two home runs on the way to the Nationals’ title win.
Fifteen years after he was selected with the relocated franchise’s first pick, No. 4 overall in the 2005 Draft, Zimmerman and his teammates celebrated the first World Series title for a D.C.-based team since 1924.
“What a special group of guys, man,” Zimmerman said during the Nationals’ victory parade in the nation’s capital this past weekend.
“These guys, we fought all year long, we stayed together. We had such a cast of characters. Much has been made about the ‘Viejos’ and the young guys, and you know, we came from a dark place in June. We really were 1-0. We played playoff games from June 1st on, and I think that really helped us.
“There’s not a team that I would have wanted to do this with more than these guys.”
“Like Mr. Lerner said,” Zimmerman continued, referring to the Nationals’ 94-year-old owner’s comments during this weekend’s rally on the the 95-year gap between the first and second World Series titles in D.C. baseball baseball history, “it was worth the wait.”
“The fans, we grew up together. I came here when I was 20 years old, right out of college, you guys hadn’t had baseball in a long time, you were learning how to be fans again.
“I’ve got guys that come up to me now that are 30 years old and say I’ve been their favorite player since they were a little kid. Which is disturbing. Basically like Juan [Soto]. But what a group of guys.
“We’re 2019 World Series champs, and nobody can ever take that away from us.”
Zimmerman had an $18M club option for 2020 included in the 6-year/$100M extension he signed with Washington in 2012, but the Nationals declined it this week, opting to pay a $2M buyout, but the chatter all season, and now, is that the two sides will try to work things out so the player often referred to as the “Face of the Franchise” can play out however many years he has left in his career with the only team he’s ever known.
But he plans to keep playing.
“For some reason, everyone thought I was retiring after this year,” Zimmerman told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this week.
“Some people are like, ‘Well heck, you might as well just leave now,’” having won the World Series.
“I still think a got a couple good years in me,” Zimmerman said.
So what is it going to take to bring Zimmerman back for another season, in what he already acknowledged this winter is going to have to be a reduced role?
Zimmerman suggested that if he came back at a reduced salary, the Nationals could afford another first baseman to split duties at first base like Matt Adams has in the past two years, though the Nationals declined their portion of a mutual option with the left-handed slugger last week.
“I’ll play on a one-year deal for I don’t know [how much],” Zimmerman told NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas back in late July.
“I’m not going to play for free because I’m not going to miss my family. If I didn’t have a family, I’d play for free. But I think the amount of sacrifice and time away from home, there needs to be obviously some incentive to play other than just loving baseball.”
Zimmerman also has a 5-year/$10M personal-services contract with the Nationals that was included in his extension, which begins when his playing days are eventually over, so their relationship won’t likely end any time soon, but questions about how much he has left and how much the team will be willing to pay him for what he can offer now are questions that will linger until there’s more clarity about what his future holds.