The moment that the Washington Nationals find a new manager, they will have to restart talks about extending the contracts of two of their key stars. Namely, pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond, both players who are key parts of the franchise and need to be tied up long term.
The keeping of your homegrown talent is a key point of Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo‘s plans from day one. The Lerner family have invested over $100 million in rebuilding the Nationals farm system since they bought the team from MLB.
Zimmermann has established himself as one the best pitchers in baseball and his statistics back up the the point. You could easily make the argument that he was the ace of the Washington staff in 2013.
He had 19 wins and led the Nationals with 213.1 innings with a solid 3.25 ERA. In an All-Star season, Zimmermann mixed consistency with frequent dominance and validated his 2012 breakout to emerge in the minds of his teammates as the Nationals’ ace.
So Rizzo wants to get him locked down to long term deal even though he is under team control through 2015. There is no doubt that both sides want a deal done it is as always about the money and the years.
According to Zimmermann: “I’m not going to give a huge team discount,” he warned. “Just something fair is all I ask.”
So what will it take to land Zimmermann to a long term deal?
Most analysts feel that if the Nationals gave him four years at $100 million he would sign even if that is a bit low on the open market for someone of Zimmermann’s talent. Should a deal between the Nationals and Zimmermann hit a snag for some reason, the back-up plan is to go heavy in for the Tampa Bay Rays Cy Young winner David Price.
No one expects the Nationals to lose Zimmermann, and he has made it clear he wants to stay. This is just part of the extension dance. The Nationals and Zimmermann will find common ground and do a deal.
Meanwhile, Desmond recognizes that he has two years of arbitration remaining and doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to put together a deal. That said the Nationals could nail him down to a new four year and $65 million deal. For a team leader and Gold Glove caliber shortstop who also can hit for average and power, $65 million is both a fair deal and in line with someone of Desmond’s talents.
So once the Nationals sign a new manager there are still some fun moves ahead. Remember this: The Nationals are an organization that learned firsthand that big projections and talent aren’t enough in the fickle game of baseball; tinkering with the bench and pen may not be enough. A significant move — a signing, trading, or both — seems reasonably likely to be in the offing.