Nats will face decision on Ryan Zimmerman soon

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If you had to call one player “Mr. National,” it’d be Ryan Zimmerman. He’s only 26 years old, but the well-rounded third baseman can already claim 833 career hits and has played in all but 134 games of the franchise’s existence.

Stephen Strasburg draws headlines and Bryce Harper is certainly an intriguing raw talent, but Zimmerman is D.C. baseball. And it’s time to start thinking about paying him the big bucks.

According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Zimmerman has indicated that he will test the free agent waters if a contract extension can’t be reached before the end of the 2012 season. Zim is signed at $8.925 million this year, $12 million next year and $14 million in 2013. But 2014 — a season that might be realistic for the Nats’ goals of competing — carries no guaranteed salary for the third baseman.

“I’m only 26, but I feel people think that I’m 30-something,” Zimmerman said Saturday. “They forget that I was up when I was 20 years old. Basically, when I first got called up, I was a baby. I wasn’t a grown-up yet. A lot of how I’ve grown up has been influenced by D.C. culture. It’s a special place to me.”

Even as a 28-year-old or 29-year-old, Zimmerman would draw major interest on the open market. He registered a fourth-best 7.4 WAR last season and probably deserved more than the handful of MVP votes that he received. Soon enough, the Nats are going to have to make a decision about his long term value.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.