Washington Nationals Mailbag: Looking at the future of Ryan Zimmerman
By Blake Finney
For the first time in 2019, we’ve brought back our Monday Mailbag. Among other questions, we look at the possible future of Ryan Zimmerman in D.C.
The calendar has flipped over to 2019, everyone in the baseball world is back at square one raring to go in a matter of weeks. The Washington Nationals are no different, but they still have a few questions to answer before then.
We start off the new year with the next edition of our Mailbag article to answer your burning questions about the Nats. It’s a bumper article this week, so let’s get right down to business with one of the faces of the franchise.
Mike (@mwilliford36): What are the Nationals going to do with Zimmerman after this year? Do they let him walk, restructure his deal or does he retire?
It’s an interesting dilemma that the Nats have on their hands with Ryan Zimmerman. He recently talked to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post about possibly staying. “I don’t think it’s any secret I’d like to finish here,” the first baseman said. “I still would like to get compensated fairly, but it’s not like I am going to go somewhere else and play for an extra couple bucks.”
From the Nationals perspective, Zimmerman is still productive when he can stay on the field, to the tune of a positive .289/.350/.542 slash line. Currently, he’s set to earn $18 million in 2019, with an option $18 million in 2020 that has a $2 million buyout which would be exercised if they can’t agree to a deal.
We’ve previously looked at the possibility of offering him a deal this offseason to help create a little room under the luxury tax threshold, which could be the best option. A lot can happen between now and then end of the 2019 season, but if I were a betting man, I’d say we see Zimmerman with the Nats for at least one or two more seasons before he hangs his cleats up.
Brett Martinez (@BrettAMartinez): If the Nats need one more RP in the pen, who is the best fit? A Justin Wilson maybe?
While we hear a lot about the Nationals needing to find an upgrade in the rotation or at second base, the team’s bullpen need gets passed by a bit. While they’ve certainly strengthened it a bit with Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal, they could definitely do with one more strong arm.
The guy you mention in Justin Wilson would be a perfect fit for the Nats. A good lefty who, while he does have reverse splits, does get lefties out at a good rate and even has experience in a high-leverage role.
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The issue is going to be the cost, unfortunately. Wilson projects to make something along the lines of $6-8 million, where the Nats appear more willing to give that money to a second baseman. Therefore, an option such as Tony Sipp or Jake Diekman, who are very similar to Wilson, make a little more sense as cheaper options to bolster the bullpen.
Brandon Givens (@givens57): If you had to pick now, do Nats end up with Dozier and Harper or neither?
These are the two players who have probably come up most in connection with the Nats over the last few days. You may have heard of that Bryce Harper guy, well, there’s strong speculation linking him with a move back to D.C. and Brian Dozier is essentially a perfect fit at second as a stopgap to top prospect Carter Kieboom.
There’s a legitimate chance that the Nationals could wind up with both of these players. However, if I were to pick the more likely of the two, I’d go with Dozier, but only just. The speculation has really picked up on him lately as he seems like the Nats top target at the keystone now.
The former Twin could sign within the next week or so with the Milwaukee Brewers being the only other team to be seriously linked to him. While Harper’s suitors are seemingly dwindling, he’s more likely to have a mystery team come through, or have one of the teams that have “ruled themselves out” come back in and pluck up the money required.
Ann D. Heilig (@ADH6626): Understand there won’t be camels at Spring Training; how different should we expect it to be?
Never say never with Dave Martinez! But yes, he seems to have switched his focus from a relaxed Spring Training to switching the focus to the little things. Back at the Winter Meetings, he told reporters the following:
"“We’re going to do more team fundamentals. I was a player too at one time. You go to Spring Training all you want to do is hit, hit, hit, hit. I think this year we’re going to break it down. We may not hit one day and just do all team stuff, situational baseball and things like that.We’ll be looking at all these things and try to figure out the best way to do it, keep guys engaged. But you’re definitely going to see more of a fundamental approach on our end.”"
It sounds like Martinez is largely going to pack in the gimmicks like the camels, the golf tournament and walk-off practice. That’s a good thing, for sure, but also perhaps a sign that he was way too complacent last year as the Nats missed out on a third-successive NL East title.
Whether the new approach to Spring Training will fix the team’s issues or not is still up for debate, but at the very least, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s a big spring for the Nats manager and he needs to learn from his past mistakes, starting with his time in West Palm Beach.
We’ll be back soon with another mailbag, and hopefully, we’ll have seen a little movement in that time with the last few needs on the Washington Nationals being addressed.