Nationals fans no longer have to worry about “the face of the franchise.”
Ryan Zimmerman, the team’s first draft pick after moving to Washington in 2005 and its starting third-baseman for the past six seasons, will be a National through at least 2019 under terms of a contract extension announced this morning.
The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore reports that the deal is worth $100 million over six seasons and includes a $24 million club option for 2020. Including the money Zimmerman is scheduled to make over the next two seasons, he will earn $126 million through 2019 and $150 million if the team picks up his option for 2020, when he will turn 36.
With career numbers of .288/.355/.479, with 128 homers, 214 doubles, 498 RBIs, and a reputation as a top defensive third baseman, Zimmerman is recognized as one of the game’s best players, and these contract numbers put him in company with the game’s current elites. Kilgore reports that he will become the second-highest paid third baseman in major league history, behind Alex Rodriguez, and only eight players in baseball are guaranteed more than Zimmerman’s $126 million after this season.
Furthermore, he joins Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp as the only players signed through 2019.
The deal also includes the full no-trade clause Zimmerman was seeking. That seemed to be the final sticking point that kept the two sides negotiating after Zimmerman’s self-imposed deadline of the first full-squad workouts yesterday.
Zimmerman, who is from the Virginia Beach area and attended the University of Virginia, was adamant that he receive the security after opening contract talks in the wake of an injury-shortened 2011 season. Limited to 101 games by an abdominal injury, Zimmerman hit .289 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI.
The two sides had made enough progress by yesterday afternoon that they agreed to keep working through the day and overnight to get the deal completed, according to Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com, as well as Howard Fendrich of The Associated Press and MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.
Now he and the team can concentrate on having a productive 2012 season. With Zimmerman locked up, a bolstered pitching staff and touted prospect Bruce Harper working to make the team, the Nationals are hoping to contend in the National League East or at least post their first winning season in Washington.
“It’s a relief,” Zimmerman told Kerzel and Ladson this morning, “It’s a lot of stuff to work out. It’s a big commitment. Things like that don’t get done quickly. Both sides worked tirelessly to get this stuff done. Now, we don’t have to worry about it anymore.”