After capturing a World Series title at age 35, in the same season his six-year, $100MM contract came to a close, Ryan Zimmerman could’ve opted to hang up his cleats in storybook fashion had he so wished. But the two-time All-Star clearly felt he had more left to experience in the game and ultimately took a sizable pay cut to return to the Nationals on a one-year, $2MM deal this winter. With the season on hold indefinitely, Zimmerman acknowledges within a self-penned guest piece for the Associated Press that it’s been hard not to think about life after baseball, but he indicated that as things stand, he hopes to continue playing not only in 2020 but perhaps beyond.
“If it turns out there isn’t a 2020 season, and I had to decide right now about 2021, I would say: Yes, I definitely would plan on playing next year,” Zimmerman writes. The 15-year Nationals veteran adds that he had no interest in signing anywhere but back with the Nationals this winter and only plans to sign one-year deals from this point forth, so as to assess how his body holds up on a year-to-year basis. Of course, based on his age and level of play in 2019, that was all that was reasonable to expect anyhow.
Zimmerman spent much of this past season on the injured list due to plantar fasciitis, and when he was healthy enough to take the field, he wasn’t particularly productive. The 2019 season marked just the second time in his excellent career that he rated below league average at the plate, by measure of wRC+ (89) and OPS+ (86). Through 190 plate appearances, Zimmerman slashed a .257/.321/.415 with six long balls and nine doubles.
Zimmerman’s balky foot quite likely impacted his performance in virtually all aspects of the game, and it should be pointed out that from 2017-18, he turned in a quite-productive .289/.350/.542 batting line. However, staying on the field has also become increasingly difficult for Zimmerman as he’s played into his mid-30s. Dating back to the 2014 campaign, he’s averaged just 92 games and 364 plate appearances per year while missing time due to to oblique, wrist, hamstring and rib cage issues in addition to three separate IL stints for plantar fasciitis.
Presently, it appears the downtime has done Zimmerman some good. He writes that he feels “unbelievable” having been able to work out without grinding through the rigors of a 162-game schedule, although he makes clear that he’s eager to return to the field and experience the feeling of defending a World Series title for the first time. It seems nearly impossible to envision Zimmerman playing anywhere else, and given that the team values him beyond his on-field contributions, it’s not tough to see him suiting up for a few more years if he feels up to the challenge.