The Washington Nationals have signed third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to a six-year contract extension believed to be worth $100-million. Along with his current deal which runs through 2013, the Nationals now have Zimmerman locked up until 2019. The deal also reportedly includes a $24-million option for the 2020 season and a full no-trade clause. With his current deal, Zimmerman is guaranteed eight-years and $126-million.
The 27-year-old has become one of the best third basemen in baseball since coming into the league full-time as a 21-year-old in 2006. His best years came in 2009 and 2010 when he had a combined 14.5 fWAR and a 135 wRC+. 2011, however, was a troublesome year for him as he battled a shoulder injury which caused him to miss about one-third of the season and severely hampered his ability to throw. His defensive metrics, while previously among the best in the league, fell to below average and his hitting suffered too.
Though the deal is not without its risks, the Nationals have money to burn right now and with an emerging core of superstars that includes Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmermann, Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon, cost certainty will likely help them retain some of their young talent through their prime years.
If Zimmerman is healthy, he’ll probably be good enough for the first few years to justify the eventual overpay at the back end of the deal; even if they have to move him to first base to make room for Rendon, who could supplant him sooner than later.
This deal also serves to illustrate once again that the Evan Longoria deal with the Rays is the most team-friendly in baseball. Longoria is one year younger than Zimmerman and their production between 2008 and 2010 was eerily similar:
Zimmerman: 17.1 fWAR, .370 wOBA, 127 wRC+, 72 HR
Longoria: 20.8 fWAR, .377 wOBA, 135 wRC+, 82 HR
Longoria was slightly better over that time and was also healthy for all of last season which gives him far more value than Zimmerman, yet Longoria will make $40.5-million over the next five seasons (assuming the Rays pick up his two options). Zimmerman will likely make roughly $74-million over those same years, with far more than that coming to him in guaranteed cash.
Still, the Zimmerman deal compares well with the deal Adrian Beltre received from the Rangers despite the fact that he was much older; and it is far more team-friendly than the deal the Yankees handed Alex Rodriguez before 2008. The Nationals will be one scary team over the next few seasons; Expos fans, hide your eyes.