Ryan Zimmerman has only known one team throughout his 16-year Major League career. “Mr. National” was selected with the fourth overall pick by the Nats back in the 2005 draft, and it seems he’s leaning toward a 17th season in D.C.
“I still definitely am planning on playing [in 2022],” Zimmerman said in an appearance on 106.7 FM The Fan this morning (Twitter link via Federal Baseball’s Blake Finney), “but we’ll see what happens. No decisions either way yet.”
The latter half of Zimmerman’s quote leaves open the possibility that he’ll still ultimately opt for retirement on the heels of an outstanding career, but Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has already made clear that’s entirely Zimmerman’s call. Rizzo said plainly at season’s end that so long as he is GM, Zimmerman “has a place on this roster,” before going on to add: “…[W]henever he wants to take a major league contract, just call me up and we’ll give him one.”
Zimmerman, who turned 37 in September, has been a clubhouse leader for the Nationals throughout his time with the organization, serving as the face of the franchise through some ugly building seasons and ultimately emerging as a World Series champion with the Nats in 2019. A former Rookie of the Year runner-up, two-time Silver Slugger, Gold Glove winner and two-time All-Star, Zimmerman appeared in 110 games with the Nationals this past season and slashed .243/.286/.471 with 14 home runs and 16 doubles in 273 plate appearances.
Though not the feared middle-of-the-order hitter he once was, Zimmerman still torched lefties in 2021, hitting at a .291/.319/.582 clip with seven homers and 11 doubles in just 116 plate appearances against them. Returning for a 17th big league season would afford him the opportunity to chase down a few milestones as well; he’s just 16 homers shy of 300 for his career and would likely score his 1000th run in 2022 if he returns. Depending on how many years he feels are left in the tank, Zimmerman could also pursue the 2000-hit marker. He’s unlikely to get there as a part-time player in ’22, as he’s currently 154 knocks shy, but if he feels there are two seasons left in his bat it’s certainly possible.
Based on Rizzo’s comments, Zimmerman’s value to the franchise extends well beyond his on-field production. And, given that the 2022 season could represent something of a step back as the Nats evaluate younger players on the heels of a trade-deadline fire sale, it’d be easier (and arguably more valuable) for them to carry a revered veteran like Zimmerman. Washington will likely be considered a long shot (at best) to contend next year, and the Nats surely wouldn’t mind at least a year of Zimmerman’s influence and mentorship for the organization’s next generation of talent.