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.