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.