The Nationals brought in several new players this offseason, but they may have just made their most important move. Washington has agreed to terms on a new $100MM six-year contract extension with Ryan Zimmerman, with a club option for a seventh year worth $24MM. In conjunction with his current deal, the new agreement can keep the 27-year-old in the nation's capital through 2020 if the option is exercised. Saturday was the Brodie Van Wagenen client's self-imposed deadline for a new deal.
Zimmerman, 27, was already under contract through 2013 thanks to the five-year, $40MM contract he signed in April 2009. He is slated to earn $12MM this season and $14MM next season, and would have become a free agent this winter had he not signed that first extension. No-trade protection was said to be the final hurdle in talks and the new deal will provide Zimmerman with a full no-trade clause.
The third baseman also agreed to $10MM personal services deferral in order to give the Nationals flexibility, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Zimmerman's current contract will remain unchanged, Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com tweets.
Since making his big league debut a few weeks after being the fourth overall pick in 2005, Zimmerman is a .288/.355/.479 career hitter with four 20+ homer and four 30+ double seasons to his credit. Over the last three years, he's produced a .296/.370/.499 batting line with a Gold Glove, an All-Star Game berth, two Silver Sluggers, and a pair of top-25 finishes in the MVP voting. Only Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre have posted a better UZR at the hot corner than Zimmerman (+24.6 UZR) since 2009. In terms of wins over replacement, he's been the 12th most valuable position player in baseball over the last three seasons (17.1 WAR).
As with every long-term contract, the Nationals are assuming a significant amount of risk. Zimmerman missed more than two months due to abdominal surgery last summer, and he missed close to two months with a shoulder problem in 2008. After playing in 150+ games in his first two full seasons, he's topped the 150-game plateau just once in the last four years. Although he's an excellent defender at the hot corner at the moment, Zimmerman may have to move to first towards the end of the deal, a move that will be easier to swallow if third base prospect and 2011 sixth overall pick Anthony Rendon develops as expected.
GM Mike Rizzo has ensured that his core can remain intact through at least 2015. Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Rendon, and Bryce Harper are all under contract or team control for at least another four seasons. Center field remains a long-term question, but next offseason's free agent crop offers a number of excellent candidates, including B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, and Shane Victorino.
As our Extension Tracker shows, Zimmerman's contract is the fifth $100MM+ extension handed out over the last calendar year, and the third multi-year extension given out by the Nationals this offseason. Mike Morse (two years, $10.5MM) and Gonzalez (five years, $42MM) also signed for multiple years this winter while Zimmermann and Clippard remain extension candidates as well. Washington is very clearly a team on the rise, and now they know their franchise player will be around when the rebuild results in a playoff spot.
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post first reported the agreement while Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter) reported the contract length. Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (via Twitter) reported the deal's worth. Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com tweeted that the option year is worth $24MM.
Mike Axisa contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.