Of the 198 months since the Nationals opened up their inaugural season in their new city, Zimmerman has only not been under contract with the team for around six of them. Two before the 2005 MLB Draft, two after the 2019 season, and two after the 2020 season.
It’s tough to imagine one being without the other. However, it’s hard not to wonder whether that time may be on the horizon given the direction that both are heading.
The Nationals look like they’re heading towards a rebuild, or as the team likes to call it, a reboot. Zimmerman turned 37 years old during the week and moved into more of a part-time, pinch-hitting role this season where he only starts one or two games a week.
Does Zimmerman really want to go through another rebuilding process at his age as a part-time player? Only one man will be able to answer to that, but even Zimmerman can’t say for sure just yet.
“I haven’t said anything because I really don’t know, to be honest with you,” Zimmerman told reporters earlier this week. “I don’t want to make a decision on anything before I really have closure on it.
“The last thing I would want to do is say I don’t want to come back and come December I’m sitting at home and talk with my family and kind of realize I do want to come back. So I just think there’s no real rush, but we’ll see.”
Zimmerman has earned every right to make his decision on his own time. As he says, he doesn’t want to make one prematurely and then regret it further down the line. That’s something that his manager can relate to from his own playing days.
“Honestly, I was the same way,” Nats skipper Dave Martinez explained. “Every year, once my contract was over I had to reevaluate, go home and realize, hey, I think I can play one more year, next thing you know I’m signing a two-year deal and we continue to play.
“I think he just wants to go home and just kind of reassess everything and see where he stands from there.”
On the field, Zimmerman definitely looks like he can still play at a good enough level to contribute in the major leagues for another season or two.
In 266 plate appearances this year, Zimmerman has slashed .244/.282/.472 with 14 home runs and a 96 wRC+ in part-time duty.
As usual, against left-handers, he’s done even better, slashing .294/.316/.587 with a 133 wRC+ in 114 plate appearances.
That certainly doesn’t look like a player whose body is telling him to hang them up. At the very least, he can still be a useful platoon-type, defensive replacement player in 2022.
Off the field though, Zimmerman has a young family who, if this is the end of the road for him, would very much enjoy him being with them on a day-to-day basis rather than jetting off around the country for half of the year.
Now with the final series of the season here for the Nationals, it leaves fans in a weird spot.
There is a legitimate chance that this is the final time they will see Zimmerman don the Curly-W, but it’s also a possibility that he could return for another season and stick it out.
Knowing that, the skipper wants to make sure he gets the veteran in the lineup at some point.
“We’re just taking it day-by-day,” Martinez said with regards to getting Zimmerman in the lineup this weekend.
“We’ll see what happens, I’m going to try to get him in one day the last series at home.”
For all that Zimmerman and the fans have been through together with the Nationals, those in the bleachers no doubt will want to give the franchise icon a real sendoff if this is the end for him
Even if this is the end and we won’t know it for another couple of months, or whenever Zimmerman decides, he’s established his legacy enough that there will still be plenty of fanfare to come if he makes the decision to retire.
He’ll likely meet the media when he’s made his decision. He’ll inevitably have some kind of ceremony at Nationals Park to honor him. He’ll definitely go up into the Ring of Honor, almost certainly have his jersey number retired, and probably a statue to go with it.
“Whatever happens at the end of this year,” Zimmerman explained, “and with next year, I live here, my kids are going to go to school. I’m lucky to live and be where I play. So whether this is the last series or whether it’s not, if I do decide something in the offseason, it’s not like I’m going to disappear.”
Just in case this is the end of Zimmerman’s time as a player, fans at the ballpark this weekend will definitely want to make themselves heard every time he steps up to the plate...