Back in 2012, the Washington Nationals were able to lock up the face of their franchise in Ryan Zimmerman to a six-year, $100 million contract extension. Zimmerman was due to hit the open market following the 2013 season and could have had a stranglehold on the third base market, as he would have been far and away the best target out there. Thankfully that did not happen, and Zimmerman’s new deal is set to kick in this season. Zimmerman has a full no trade clause and is due to make $14 million from the 2014-2018 seasons, then $18 million in 2019 and a 2020 $18 million option with a $2 million buyout.
Back in 2012, this seemed to be a necessary move for the Nationals. Zimmerman was one of their most consistent players who seemed to have an air for the dramatic with many exciting walk-off home runs, and he was also the first draft pick in franchise history in 2005. But after multiple shoulder problems and other nagging injury, did the Nationals make a mistake before the contract even kicks in? Zimmerman is entering his age 29 season in 2014, and in the two seasons since signing the extension he has played in 145 and 147 games and also hit .278/.345/.471 with 51 home runs and 174 RBI. In 2013, Zimmerman hit .275/.344/.465 with 26 home runs and 79 RBI. His strikeout numbers also jumped a little in 2013 to 133, which is up from 116 in 2012.
The fact of the matter is this: The Nationals got a bargain for Zimmerman compared to what a team would have bid on him had he hit the open market, which I think is safe to say would have started somewhere around $18-$20 million for the first few seasons. For the Nationals to get Zimmerman, a strong defensive third baseman who does have his warts (in this case injuries), who is good for roughly 25-30 home runs a season and pay him less than $15 million, in my opinion is a major coup, especially with the way today’s market usually goes with free agents. Teams typically start at an inflated price and go upward from there.
Zimmerman is now going through a full normal offseason and spring after having shoulder surgery in the fall of 2012, and it seemed his shoulder got stronger as the season progressed. With that in mind and with respect to the fact that his salary compared to other big name players is not that high, it’s relatively safe to say the Nationals got a solid bargain with this extension. If Zimmerman continues to be consistently injured, at least Washington is not overpaying him, say to the tune of $20 million, right?