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Is this the end for Ryan Zimmerman with the Washington Nationals?

It’s the same question that’s been asked for the last ... three years, really, but it’s worth asking again as 2021 winds down for the Nationals and Ryan Zimmerman...

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Ryan Zimmerman had a total of eight plate appearances in the month of September before the 36-year-old, 16-year veteran stepped to the plate this past Saturday night against right-hander Shelby Miller and hit a 95 MPH 1-2 fastball to center for a 411-foot solo home run, his 13th of the season (to go along with 13 doubles) in 240 plate appearances.

“It was awesome,” Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said of Zimmerman’s blast after what ended up a 10-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“He came off the bench and got ready to hit, guy threw him a fastball up and he stayed in the middle of the field.”

“Every time Zim goes up there you always feel good about his at bats, and it was awesome to see him hit a home run today,” Martinez added.

Playing on a 1-year/$1M deal this season, after he opted out of playing in the 60-game 2020 campaign out of concern for the health of his family amidst the COVID pandemic, the 2005 1st Round pick by the Nationals has embraced the bench role he signed up for with 28-year-old first baseman Josh Bell acquired this winter to play every day at first base.

“It’s definitely a different role than I’ve had in my career,” Zimmerman said in an early August Zoom call with reporters. “I’m not expected to start every day. Sometimes I go a decent amount of time without getting a start, if there’s not many lefties or if JB is hitting the ball really well, and that’s what I signed up for, that’s what I knew I was going to to be coming into this year, and those days off have helped me kind of keep my body healthy and be ready to go when I do get a chance to play.

“I’ve enjoyed it, it’s definitely different than anything I’ve done in the past, but it’s been good for me I think, and for the most part when I do get a chance, I’m healthy and ready to go.”

Zimmerman is 10 for 49 with four doubles and two home runs as a pinch hitter, putting up a .250/.297./477 line, nine doubles, and 10 home runs in the 43 games (and 185 PAs) in games he’s started this season, though, as he noted, with Josh Bell swinging it after a slow start, he isn’t getting a whole lot of opportunities.

But ... is this going to be it for the soon-to-turn 37-year-old veteran?

Talking to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies in mid-August, Zimmerman said he still had not decided what he’ll do in 2022 at that point.

“A lot of it is going to depend on, first of all,” Zimmerman explained, “how I feel and when it gets time to start working out, ramping up in the offseason, honestly if I feel like getting ready to work out again. I think that’s the most important part, too, is the hardest part of every season is the offseason before that season. You have to be ready. You have to put in the work to prepare yourself to play a major league season. It’s a good amount of work in the offseason. So, that’s the first sort of thing, to see if I still want to do that.”

Asked if he’d want to be part of the reboot the team is going through in the last season(s) of his career, Zimmerman said it was more about whether the team saw a role for him.

“Now, it’s honestly going to see what [the Nationals’] plan is as well. I’ve lost a lot of games before,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve done that whole gig. I’m not saying I’m not in if they’re going to do that, but we’ll see what their plan is and go from there.”

New York Mets v Washington Nationals - Game One Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

“I still feel like I’m productive,” he added. “I still feel like I can help a team win. But there’s a lot of things to think about.”

According to his manager, Zimmerman’s future is not something that’s been discussed at this point.

“He’s going to get through this season,” Martinez said before the opening game of the next-to-last homestand of the 2021 campaign. “He hasn’t discussed what he wants to do yet, but as you know, he did really well, the times he got to play he helped us win some ballgames, you know, pinch hit, you saw him the other night hit a home run to center field, but we’ll wait till after the season and we’ll discuss what his plans are and what he wants to do and then we’ll go from there.”

The fourth-year skipper did, however, say that he thought Zimmerman could play a big role on a rebuildingooting club.

“He’s been huge all year, especially now that we’ve got so many young kids,” Martinez said.

“He’s been great. And the big thing about it is he’s accepted his role. He talks to Josh [Bell] every day, helps Josh out a lot, especially defensively, and encourages Josh to continue to do what he does, so it’s awesome to watch those two guys do what they do.

“You put them both together, and man, they’ve done an unbelievable this year so far.

“They’re not done, obviously, but man they’ve put up some numbers at first base.”