Ryan Zimmerman Rumors
The Nationals are looking to contend in 2012 after finishing the 2011 season with an 80-81 record. GM Mike Rizzo discussed his offseason plans with Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com. Here are the highlights of their conversation:
- Plans can change, but the Nationals are currently comfortable with Adam LaRoche at first base and Michael Morse as a possible alternative. Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols loom as MVP-caliber options for teams willing to spend.
- Rizzo said he’d like to improve the offense and explained that LaRoche could help the Nationals score by returning to his career norms in 2012.
- Rizzo said the Nationals will look to “tweak” their lineup this offseason and suggested a major signing is not particularly likely.
- The Nationals will make “every effort” to keep Ryan Zimmerman long-term. Rizzo expects to try to hammer out an extension with the third baseman, whose contract expires after 2013.
- The Nationals feel “pretty confident” that manager Davey Johnson will remain in place for years to come. However, they’re holding off on making official announcements about Johnson's 2012 status until after the World Series because they haven’t completed their due diligence regarding other candidates.
- Bryce Harper’s timeline hasn’t changed. The top prospect’s arrival in the Major Leagues depends on how quickly he develops.
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman opened up about his next contract, talking to beat writer Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post on Sunday. Zimmerman, who has repeatedly stated his desire to remain with the Nationals beyond his current contract, expressed confidence that a new deal will get done.
Kilgore lays out the many factors sure to figure into the negotiations. Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Braun will come up as comparables, which is cool since the three players were drafted so close together in 2005. The new portion of Tulo's contract averages $19MM per year over six free agent years, while Braun received $21MM per year over five. Braun received more per year than Tulowitzki partly because he was closer to free agency, so will Zimmerman receive more than Braun since he's just two seasons away? Zimmerman told Kilgore he's going to need a contract longer than his current five-year pact, and that 29-year-old free agents get seven to ten years. Noted Zimmerman, "You only get one shot to try to get a big deal; if you’re lucky enough to get one shot, that’s the time you have to get it."
Kilgore touches on Zimmerman's injury history, a major factor. Out of six full seasons in the bigs, Zimmerman has missed large chunks of two of them. He had a shoulder injury in 2008, after which he signed his five-year, $45MM contract. This year, he had surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle. The Nationals know better than anyone whether these two injuries were isolated occurrences.
Back in March, Zimmerman remarked that "if you have one year before free agency, you might as well play your year out and see what happens." That feeling hasn't changed much, as he told Kilgore Sunday that while he wouldn't completely rule out an extension with one year left before free agency, when a player gets to that point in his career he wants to make teams compete against each other. If the Nationals want to hammer out an extension with Zimmerman and his agent Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports, they've probably got a year or less to do so, since he's signed through 2013.
Zimmmerman is thinking at least seven years, which would take him through the 2020 season and tie him with Braun and Tulo for the latest any player is currently under contract. Kilgore tosses out an eight-year, $175MM figure if Zimmerman wants to exceed Jayson Werth by $1MM through 2017 and then continue for another four years at $22MM per. Such a contract would be the sixth-largest in baseball history, and he'd be the only player signed through 2021. Zimmerman doesn't think his injury this year affects his contract situation at all, and if Washington matched Kilgore's estimate it'd suggest they feel the same.
- Ryan Zimmerman repeated to MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he'd like to spend his entire career in Washington. The third baseman is set to hit free agency after the 2013 season.
- Scouts tell Bob Nightengale of USA Today that the Nationals will be powerful in a couple of years and would compete in the NL West right now (Twitter link).
- The Phillies and Cole Hamels want to work out a long-term deal this offseason, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Gelb shows that Jered Weaver is about as statistically similar to Hamels as possible and suggests that the Phillies and Hamels could agree to a contract that mimics Weaver's recent five-year, $85MM extension. Hamels should earn more than Weaver, given his higher 2011 salary and proximity to free agency.
- Mets manager Terry Collins asked starter Mike Pelfrey if he'd be up for becoming the team's closer in 2012 and Pelfrey said he "absolutely" would, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. However, it's unlikely that Pelfrey will become the Mets' closer, since GM Sandy Alderson is opposed to the idea, Martino writes. Check out CloserNews.com for more on each team’s bullpen.
- Braves GM Frank Wren told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he has focused on adding speed in recent years, bringing in players such as Jose Constanza and Michael Bourn.
- Braves reliever Eric O'Flaherty switched agents and is now a client of Dan Lozano's Icon Sports Group, according to Yahoo's Tim Brown (on Twitter). Steve Canter formerly represented the left-hander, who will be arbitration eligible for the second time after the season. Keep track of each player's representation with MLBTR's Agency Database.
Ken Rosenthal has his weekly Full Count Video up over at FOXSports.com, so let's take a look:
- All GMs -- past, present, and prospective -- would love a crack at the Cubs' recent opening, says Rosenthal. Some GMs who are in their last contractual year, like Brian Cashman of the Yankees, line up better than others. Rosenthal feels the Rays might let Chicago interview Andrew Friedman, but finds it highly unlikely that the Red Sox would allow the Cubs to interview Theo Epstein, who is under contract through 2012.
- While the Nationals have spent almost $40MM on the Amateur Draft in the past three seasons, Rosenthal says they'd be wise to check in with their first draft pick ever: Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman is controlled through 2013, but Rosenthal likens him to another prominent young star, saying that Zimmerman is to the Nats what Troy Tulowitzki is to the Rockies. He feels the Nats should approach their cornerstone about a similar extension before he gets so close to free agency that he considers testing it.
- The Mets were far from the only team interested in Mike Minor at the July 31st trade deadline. The Indians offered the Drew Pomeranz to the Braves in exchange for Minor, thinking that with Atlanta trying to acquire Hunter Pence at the time, the Astros may prefer Pomeranz to Minor. Cleveland would get a more Major League-ready arm in return, but the Braves had no intention of dealing Minor.
- The Rockies will look to add a big bat this winter, preferably at third base or a corner outfield spot. If they can find a third baseman despite a weak market, they may be inclined to pursue a leadoff hitter like the Twins' Denard Span. Rosenthal says the Rox have long coveted Span, and almost drafted him in 2002, but instead took Jeff Francis due to concerns over Span's asking price. Minnesota grabbed Span 11 picks later at No. 20 overall, though they showed a willingness to move him at this year's deadline when negotiating with the Nats.
The Nationals announced that Bryce Harper, last year's first overall pick, and right-hander Brad Peacock will represent Washington at the All-Star Futures Game (Twitter link). Here are some more notes from the NL East...
- Ryan Zimmerman tells Tim Kurkjian of ESPN The Magazine that he still hopes to play his entire career for the Nationals. "I think it would be really cool to play 15 or 20 years in the same place and say that I was there when things were not so great," Zimmerman said. As Kurkjian shows, the Nationals have turned into a respectable team after struggling for years.
- Mets shortstop Jose Reyes told Aaron Taube of MLB.com that he isn't concerned about the fact that the Yankees aren't expecting to acquire him. "I don't worry about that. I play for the New York Mets," Reyes said.
- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel would like to see his team add a right-handed hitter with some pop, according to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Manuel’s wish may come true, as the Phillies are looking for just that and have checked in on the likes of Ryan Ludwick, Josh Willingham and Michael Cuddyer.
- ESPN.com's Keith Law lists the Rays, Twins and D'Backs among his day one winners while questioning moves by the Braves, Rockies and others. High school outfielder Josh Bell heads Law's list of best remaining players.
- Bell, Daniel Norris and Dillon Howard are the best players remaining according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
- Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin, Washington's first three picks, are all Scott Boras clients, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. The Nationals have a history of selecting Boras clients, going back to first overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
- Rendon plays the same position as Nationals cornerstone Ryan Zimmerman, but "the point of the draft is to take the best player available" regardless of the big league roster, Zimmerman told Ladson.
- Top Orioles pick Dylan Bundy may be an especially difficult player to sign, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. “The numbers that were thrown out were true," Bundy said, without saying explicitly that he's looking for a $30MM bonus.
- Cardinals scouting director Jeff Luhnow sounds confident that he'll be able to sign first rounder Kolten Wong before the August deadline for deals, according to MLB.com's Matthew Leach.
- Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and scouting director Amiel Sawdaye broke down Boston's top four picks and Alex Speier of WEEI.com has the details. Epstein says he thought some things broke Boston's way.
- Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner gets the sense that Astros' amateur scouting director Bobby Heck will take a pitcher with the 69th overall selection (Twitter link).
Emilio "Millito" Navarro, believed to be the oldest living professional baseball player at 105, passed away in Puerto Rico today. The former Negro Leaguer also played in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico during his career. Our condolences go out to his family.
- Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports that former Mets GM Omar Minaya has spent the past two days on a "friendly visit" with Indians GM Chris Antonetti, president Mark Shapiro, and manager Manny Acta. Cleveland interviewed former Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes during the offseason, and Hoynes says Antonetti has "made [it] no secret that he'd like to add the right person to the front office."
- While researching the impending free agency of young stars, SI's Jon Heyman (via Twitter) learned that we can count on Jered Weaver and John Danks filing after 2012.
- It's been a bad day for star third basemen, writes Justin Sablich of the New York Times. The Giants lost Pablo Sandoval for 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his right wrist and the Nationals announced that Ryan Zimmerman, who has been on the disabled list since April 12, will miss at least an another six weeks. If both players return within those timeframes, it's unlikely that either squad will look for an out-of-house fill-in.
- Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs questions the Blue Jays' wisdom in demoting Travis Snider to work on his hitting after just 99 plate appearances in 2011.
In extending Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki through the year 2020, the Brewers and Rockies made bold commitments to their young stars by adding multiyear extensions on top of pre-existing contracts that already covered both men through 2015 and 2014, respectively.
Are these deals risky? Absolutely, but the contracts represent the latest step in how clubs attempt to lock up their young stars. It isn't enough to just gain cost-certainty on a player through his arbitration and first few free agent years. If a team feels they have a true franchise player, it won't hesitate to sign that player to what essentially could be a lifetime contract in order to (hopefully) avoid spending even more money to re-sign that player or a comparable star as a free agent.
Should other clubs look to explore this tactic of extending an extension, here are some of the possible candidates to join Braun and Tulowitzki in the "2020" club.
- Evan Longoria. We start off with the man with arguably the most team-friendly extension in baseball history. Longoria's six-year, $17.5MM contract signed in April 2008 contains three team option years (worth $7.5MM, $11MM and $11.5MM, respectively) that could keep him in Tampa Bay through 2016, his age-29 season. As MLBTR's Mike Axisa pointed out over the winter, however, the Rays' uncertain financial situation makes it unlikely that they would make an even longer commitment to Longoria than they already have.
- Robinson Cano. Cano signed a four-year, $30MM extension before the 2008 season that also includes team option years for 2012 ($14MM) and 2013 ($15MM). New York will obviously keep Cano in the fold through his age-30 season by picking up those two options, unless those years get replaced by a longer-term contract. Cano hired Scott Boras as his agent in February and while Cano said he isn't planning to ask for an extension before his current deal expires, the second baseman is clearly already thinking ahead.
- Justin Upton. The first overall pick of the already-legendary 2005 draft is signed through 2015 on a six-year, $51.25MM extension that will run out when he's 28 years old and right in the middle of his prime years. The Diamondbacks explored a few deals for Upton over the winter and set off a flurry of speculation, but it appears as if GM Kevin Towers was simply doing his due diligence to see if another team would go overboard with a trade offer. Upton had a slightly disappointing (.799 OPS) 2010 season, so Arizona might wait for at least one more superstar campaign from their young star to make sure he's worth the risk of another multiyear extension.
- Hanley Ramirez. It seems odd to think of the Marlins doling out any major extensions, let alone two to the same player. With the team moving into its new Miami ballpark next year, though, the extra revenue could make another multiyear deal for Ramirez into a reality -- not to mention generating some goodwill amongst Marlins fans to get them to spring for season tickets. Ramirez is under contract through 2014 on a six-year, $70MM deal and 2015 will be his age-31 season. If Florida did explore an extension for Ramirez, they would surely have to factor in a move away from shortstop, since his defensive woes (a career -9.4 UZR/150) are likely to worsen as he ages.
- Ryan Zimmerman. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently outlined how the Nationals' previous extension with Zimmerman -- a five-year, $45MM pact that runs through 2013 -- was a terrific bargain for the club. Given Zimmerman's production, age (he'll be 29 when his deal runs out) and Washington's willingness to spend, Zimmerman is probably the most likely player on this list to receive a Braun/Tulowitzki-esque deal.
- Joey Votto. The Reds took the first step towards locking up the reigning NL MVP when they signed Votto to a three-year, $38MM pact that covered the first baseman's arbitration years. Votto is still on pace to hit free agency as a 30-year-old in his prime, and as one agent put it, "the Reds took on all the risk" with this initial deal. Cincinnati has put itself in position to contend over the next few seasons, so that will theoretically take care of the Great American Ballpark's attendance problems and make it possible for the team to get Votto signed to an even longer-term contract.
- Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera signed an eight-year, $152.3MM extension with the Tigers before the 2008 season. He'll turn 33 in 2016, and that advanced age plus his off-the-field issues make him an unlikely extension candidate. Detroit has the money and Cabrera has put up Cooperstown-worthy numbers throughout his career, but there just may be too much risk involved for the Tigers to commit more money to the slugger.
The Nationals and GM Mike Rizzo have taken their share of criticism for bidding aggressively on Jayson Werth and signing him to a free agent contract worth $126MM. Back in 2009, six weeks after taking over in Washington, Rizzo, then the interim GM, signed an equally important player to a long-term contract that's now looking like a fantastic deal for the team.
Ryan Zimmerman signed a five-year, $45MM deal two years ago this month and though his reasons for accepting the deal - guaranteed money, an extended stay with an organization he likes - are understandable, the Nationals are set to save $14MM or more in 2012-13, Zimmerman's age 27 and 28 seasons.
If he hadn't signed the exension two years ago, Zimmerman would have hit free agency after the 2011 season as a 27-year-old. He’s now on the disabled list (for just the second time in his career) with a left abdominal strain, but that wouldn’t have stopped teams from bidding on him if he had hit the open market after the season. Zimmerman and Prince Fielder would have been the best free agent position players available other than Albert Pujols.
A $20MM annual salary on a long-term deal would have been possible for the third baseman and his agents at CAA. Instead, the Nationals will pay Zimmerman $12MM in 2012 and $14MM in 2013. They have always been aggressive with Zimmerman, promoting him to the majors just 85 days and 269 minor league plate appearances after being drafted. It paid off with a sizzling cameo in 2005, a productive rookie season in 2006 and a shrewd contract extension in 2009.
The only players with more wins above replacement than Zimmerman since he became an everyday player in 2006 are perennial All-Stars and, in many cases, Hall of Fame candidates: Pujols, Chase Utley, Matt Holliday, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera and Joe Mauer. Zimmerman, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner, has a career mark of 13.1 UZR/150 and a .289/.356/.485 batting line, testaments to his well-rounded game.
He said last month that he would like to stay in Washington and is open to extending his stay in D.C. once again. This time, the Nationals might not be able to secure free agent years for south of $20MM, but that doesn't change the fact that his current deal has been a success for them so far and promises to be even better in 2012-13.
Since being drafted fourth overall in 2005, Ryan Zimmerman has evolved into a cornerstone of the Nationals and one of the game's best all-around players. Zimmerman signed an extension in 2009 that will delay his free agency until after the 2013 season, and he'd like to stay in Washington even longer. Speaking to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, the 26-year-old said he doesn't want to be a player who leaves via free agency after years of losing.
"That’s the dire, last-minute decision if I didn’t think we were going to win," Zimmerman said. "I have a lot of confidence that we’re really close to becoming good.... I don’t think we’re as far away as everyone thinks.... That’s kind of another one of the reasons I want to be here for so long."
While there's no rush for either side to work out a new contract yet, Zimmerman suggested he'd test free agency if an extension wasn't in place by the end of the 2012 season:
"If you get to two years left [before] free agency, you can talk. But if nothing works out, if you have one year before free agency, you might as well play your year out and see what happens.... I think the whole point of the baseball system is, you put your time in, you stay with a team, and you get rewarded with being able to be a free agent."
Zimmerman says he'd prefer not to negotiate during the regular season, though a source indicated to Kilgore that the Nationals would open extension discussions sometime in the coming months. For his part, Zimmerman says he "would take care of it whenever they want to take care of it." Of course, negotiations likely won't be easy. Several baseball people who spoke to Kilgore believe Zimmerman could command an extension worth approximately $200MM.