While he is a great talent and core member of a franchise approaching the big time, you have to wonder if, given the cost of his contract and the doors it may close, a long-term extension would really benefit the Nationals that much. The extension would likely make Zimmerman a National for an additional 6-8 years, and cost the Nats as much as 20 million a year (this is based on the Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki extensions, as well as Adam Kilgore’s 8 year $175 million projection). That’s a huge financial commitment to a single player, especially considering the players who are coming behind him. Can the Nats extend Zim, then extend Harper, Strasburg, Zimermann, Rendon, Purke, etc? Probably not. Financially, it would be putting a whole lot of eggs in one basket, when there will be younger, perhaps more talented baskets in a few years.
Speaking of those younger guys, Anthony Rendon. There was a lot of post-draft talk about what position Rendon could move to. Why on earth would you do that? Third base is a premium position and he should play there until its clear he can’t or he shows there would be outstanding value at another position. If Rendon develops in time for the 2014 season, he would be ready to step right in if the team lets Zimmerman walk, at a much cheaper price. If Zimmerman continues his current level of play, there would have to be some drop off (both defensively and offensively), but that’s a big if, plus would that drop off be worth 15-20 million a year? It admittedly sounds drastic to let a stalwart of our current line up walk, but by 2014 I’m sure Rizzo is hoping that Werth, Ramos, Espinosa, Desmond and most importantly Bryce Harper, are making bigger offensive impacts. And if Rendon isn’t ready or has shown he can’t play the position, Ryan Zimmerman is a free agent and can be had for market value, which the Nats will have a better idea of.
Ryan Zimmerman plays the game hard and while he cannot be described as fragile, Cal Ripken Jr. he ain’t. He has twice missed significant parts of season and this past season had surgery on his abdomen which also forced him to drastically overhaul his throwing motion. And he is only getting older. What would be worse than losing Zim to free agency and having Rendon flop as his replacement? Extending Zim, who then endures a series of both nagging and serious injuries that keep him sidelined, and then having Rendon be a flop.
Waiting to resign Zim after his current contract expires would allow the Nats time to see
A. what they have in Rendon,
B. how far Zim can take his talent while limiting injuries and
C. what the make-up of the team will be in 2014.
The boulder on a Zimmerman extension seems to be rolling down the hill at a decent clip at this point. Really the only person who could derail it at this point would be Zim’s agent, and it doesn’t seem likely Zim would let that happen. Ryan Zimmerman is a rare player. He is in a small group of players you can look at and say, if they keep it up for another 10 years, they are headed for Cooperstown.
Am I trying to say don’t try to keep Zim in the organization beyond 2013. Not necessarily. If Zimmerman is lights out the next 2 years and the Nats really do want him to finish his career in D.C., all they would have to do is be serious about it and offer a good contract. During the winter of 2013/2014 the Nats will have a much better idea of what the future looks like for the team and what they need going forward. So when you look at the cost, both the amount of his contract and in the limiting of flexibility of the club to sign other stars down the road, as well as his age, injury history, and the fact that the Nationals just drafted a young third-baseman with high upside and a drastically lower salary than Zimmerman, there should be at least some hesitation for Mike Rizzo when it comes to extending Ryan Zimmerman’s contract too far into the future for too much money.
Do you think I’m an idiot, or at least very misguided? Please tell me.