Washington Nationals should offer Ryan Zimmerman a new deal this winter

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WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 01: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals looks on against the New York Mets during the seventh inning at Nationals Park on August 01, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 01: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals looks on against the New York Mets during the seventh inning at Nationals Park on August 01, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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The Washington Nationals have lots of decisions to make this winter, and they would be wise to consider extending franchise cornerstone, Ryan Zimmerman.

Ryan Zimmerman continues to have a late-career renaissance for the Washington Nationals in 2018. And with his contract potentially expiring after the 2019 season, it’s time to consider offering the veteran a new deal.

He had an All-Star campaign in 2017 while hitting .303 with 36 home runs 108 RBI and a 930 OPS. After a slow start in 2018, after missing Spring Training, he’s been pretty dominant with the bat as well.

Since the All-Star break, he’s hit .306 with a .980 OPS with seven homers and 28 RBI. After it looked like his career might be winding down after a down 2016 season, it now looks like he’s got plenty of gas left in the tank.

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Even just from a performance perspective, it would make sense for the Nats to extend Zimmerman’s contract. But they may also have other motivation to get a deal done.

According to Spotrac, currently Ryan Zimmerman is due $18 million in 2019, and then has a club option for the same amount in 2020. The Nats can buy out that option for $2 million though, which they would likely do as things stand.

Potentially the more important figure for the first baseman is the $16.7 million average annual value, which is the number that counts against the luxury tax. That’s the fourth highest figure on the Nats 2018 roster, after Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, and Stephen Strasburg.

While he’s been great the last season and a half, that’s certainly not fitting for his current ability and age. If the team can agree to a contract extension that brings that average down, then it would allow them more flexibility under the luxury tax threshold, to either re-sign Harper, or go after other high-priced free agents.

With that $18 million due next season and the $2 million buyout clause, he would need to make at least that within the first two years of the contract to make it worthwhile. And to give the first baseman some security, he would likely want a deal that runs through the 2021 season that would essentially allow him to retire in Washington.

If we look at some recent contracts that have been handed out to players at the same position we can try to formulate a contract. Perhaps the closest comparison to Zimmerman in terms of length and ability is Cleveland Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso.

Per Spotrac, Alonso signed a two-year deal with a third-year option for $8 million per season this past offseason. Now, Zimmerman would likely command more per year than Alonso for about the same length contract.

So hypothetically, something along the lines of $12 million in year one, followed by $9 million in years two and three. Then you could add in a mutual option in for $8 million to cover 2022 so that Zimmerman has a little extra security.

That would bring the average per season down to $9.5 million per year, saving over $7 million per year, while allowing arguably the face of the franchise to retire as a National.

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Both sides will be happy, as the Washington Nationals get some more salary room to help them ahead of a key offseason, and Ryan Zimmerman gets some longer-term security that he deserves for his latest upturn in form.

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