|Nationals overpay for Zimmerman|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on April 20, 2009
The Washington Nationals and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman have agreed to a five-year, $45 million contract, according to Chico Harlan of the Washington Post. This new deal replaces his current contract -- a one-year, $3.325 million deal -- and secures him through 2013. From the report:
Asked earlier this weekend what a long-term deal with Zimmerman would mean, Manager Manny Acta said, "It will mean a lot for the kid, the franchise and our fans. Whenever it happens, it's gonna be worth it, because this guy means a lot to this ballclub, to this city, to our fans. And he deserves it. It will give him an opportunity to relax and just continue to do what he's been doing for us."
I'm sure everybody is happy to have Zimmerman locked up long-term. That has been a goal for the Nationals franchise for quite some time, but things never seemed to work out. The fans appreciate Zimmerman, who signed out of the University of Virginia in 2005, became a major-league regular within one year, and has grown into a fan favorite.
There are two trains of thought on Zimmerman. Let's go with the positive one first.
He finished second in the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year balloting with a .287/.351/.471 batting line. Those are terrific numbers for any youngster. He's only 24 now, which means he's locked up for the prime of his career at a low base salary. Combine that with stellar defense at third base -- the comparisons to Scott Rolen weren't far off base -- and you've got the makings of someone worth his contract.
But there's also the negative perception of Zimmerman. He missed 56 games last season after injuring his shoulder. Shoulders are tricky for hitters: Surgery can either sap a player's power or be an unimposing speed bump. We saw Scott Rolen's career as a great hitter effectively end after his shoulder injury.
Plus, for someone with extended experience at the major league level, Zimmerman's bat has never really developed. His on-base percentage the last two seasons never broke .333, and his slugging percentage didn't crack the .460 mark.
Those numbers don't scream lineup centerpiece on contending team to me. Unless he drastically improves over the next few seasons -- and Zimmerman is young, so the chance is there -- he'll likely be a complementary player. There is nothing wrong with that: Plenty of good players have been pieces on contending teams.
Considering their financials, the Nationals are paying him as if he's going to anchor their lineup. The chances of that happening don't seem good enough to warrant this type of investment.