Two-time All-Star and 2019 World Series champion Ryan Zimmerman announced his retirement from Major League Baseball today. The decision marks an end to a 17-year MLB career spent entirely as a member of the Nationals organization.
Zimmerman released a statement via his agency CAA Baseball, the full extent of which can be found on Twitter. Therein, the 37-year-old thanks the Washington fanbase, Nationals’ ownership and front office, his former teammates, coaches/training staff and agents, and his family. “Although my baseball career has come to an end, my family and I will continue to be heavily involved in the DMV community. You have given so much to us over the past 17 years; it is now time for us to give back to you. We look forward to continuing many of our community programs and starting new ones in the future. Our kids will be raised here, as this is now our home, and we couldn’t be more excited. So this is not a goodbye but more of a ’see you around.'”
The franchise made the transition from the Expos to the Nationals over the 2004-05 offseason, relocating from Montreal to Washington. That summer, they selected Zimmerman with the fourth overall pick coming out of the University of Virginia. The first official National draftee, the right-handed hitter would debut in the major leagues just a couple months later. So kicked off an MLB career that’d span nearly two decades and cement him as one of the most important players in franchise history.
Zimmerman hit very well as a September call-up in 2005, and he was pencilled into the starting lineup at the beginning of the following year. Immediately, he proved a quality all-around performer. He hit .287/.351/.471 as a rookie, pairing that above-average offensive output with excellent third base defense. He narrowly finished behind Hanley Ramírez in that season’s NL Rookie of the Year balloting, but Zimmerman would land some accolades before long.
Between 2007-08, he posted slightly above-average offensive marks while continuing to rate as one of the league’s best glovemen at the hot corner. Yet his career really took off in 2009, when Zimmerman made important strides in both his power output and walk rate en route to a .292/.364/.525 showing. That checked in 30 percentage points above the league average offensive performance (130 wRC+), and Zimmerman collected his first career All-Star appearance, Silver Slugger award and Gold Glove while garnering some down-ballot MVP support.
Not only did he back up that breakout showing the following season, he arguably got even better. Zimmerman hit .307/.388/.510 that year, collecting another Silver Slugger and a few more MVP votes. Despite the accolades, he was perhaps a bit underrated over that two-year run as the team stumbled to a pair of last-place finishes. Only five position players (Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, Carl Crawford and Chase Utley) topped Zimmerman by FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement measure between 2009-10.
Zimmerman had signed an early-career contract extension before his 2009 breakout, locking him in as a building block for a franchise that finally emerged from a long-term rebuild a few years into the 2010’s. He didn’t quite maintain his 2009-10 level of play as he got into his late-20s, but Zimmerman remained a solidly above-average regular for the next few seasons. He combined for a .281/.348/.464 showing between 2011-13, playing a key role in the Nats winning the division in 2012 for the first time since relocating.
Along the way, Washington again inked Zimmerman to a long-term extension. This one, a $100MM guarantee that ran through 2019 with full no-trade protection, promised to keep him a member of the organization for at least the vast majority of his career. Injuries limited his workload between 2014-15, and he turned in an uncharacteristically poor season in 2016. Yet Zimmerman rebounded late in the deal.
Working exclusively as a first baseman as he got into his 30s, he posted one of the better showings of his career in 2017. Zimmerman popped a career-best 36 homers and hit .303/.358/.573 over 576 plate appearances that year, earning his second All-Star nod in the process. Recurring injuries kept him from ever again exceeding 350 at-bats in a season, but Zimmerman continued to hit at an above-average level when healthy in 2018.
Remaining with the Nationals throughout his career paid off most handsomely in 2019. Zimmerman only played in 52 regular season games, but he was no doubt a revered member of the clubhouse. He saw a fair bit of action during Washington’s run to a World Series title, collecting his first ring in his age-34 campaign. Zimmerman opted out of the 2020 season owing to COVID-19 concerns but returned for a final year with the Nats in 2021.
While he hit free agency at the end of last year, there’s no question the Nationals would have welcomed him back had he wanted to continue playing. General manager Mike Rizzo said in October that “Ryan Zimmerman has a place on this roster as a player as long as Mike Rizzo is the GM” and flatly stated he had a standing MLB contract offer on the table. Yet Zimmerman pointed to a desire to spend more time with his family and suggested he didn’t feel he had the drive to fully commit to playing another season (via Jesse Dougherty and Barry Svrulga of the Washington Post).
Zimmerman concludes his playing career having left an indelible mark on the franchise, highlighted by the “Mr. National” moniker long ago bestowed upon him by fans. His #11 jersey seems a lock to be retired by the organization, and he’ll no doubt be finely remembered by the Washington fanbase.
Altogether, Zimmerman compiled a .277/.341/.475 line across parts of 16 big league seasons. He totaled 1846 hits, 284 home runs and 417 doubles, driving in 1061 runs and scoring 963 times. Both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference valued his career around 40 WAR, and BRef estimates he compiled a bit more than $134MM in earnings. Zimmerman earned MVP votes in four separate seasons, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he garners some votes for the Hall of Fame when he appears on the ballot five years from now. MLBTR congratulates him on an excellent career and wishes him all the best in retirement.