Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals finalize 1-year, $1M deal

Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — Now that he’s set to play for the Washington Nationals this season, Ryan Zimmerman might stick around a little longer, too.

Zimmerman and the Nationals made it official , announcing his 1-year, $1 million contract. The deal came after the Nats’ longest-tenured player opted out of the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.

“If I can settle into this role and do well this year, by no means does this have to be my last year,” the 36-year-old Zimmerman said on a Zoom call with reporters. “At least that’s the way I’m looking at it.”

Zimmerman is a two-time All-Star and bats right-handed. His playing time likely will diminish after Washington traded for switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell from Pittsburgh last month.

It’s still uncertain whether the National League will employ the designated hitter this year. It was used as part of the new rules added for the virus-abbreviated season.

Zimmerman, however, wasn’t looking for a new opportunity in another city.

“Playing anywhere else would be really weird. Wouldn’t really be worth it,” he said.

Zimmerman has played 15 seasons in the majors, all for the Nationals. They took him with their first pick in the 2005 draft soon after moving from Montreal to Washington.

Zimmerman boosted the franchise to its World Series championship in 2019. He didn’t play last year, choosing to sit out because of concerns about his family’s health during the pandemic. His mother has multiple sclerosis; he and his wife had their third child last year.

“Me coming back this year was in no means for like a victory lap sort of thing,” he said. “This is about coming back because I still think I can play the game at a high level, and I still think I can help the team win.”

The Nationals went 26-34 last season, tied with the Mets for last in the NL East.

Zimmerman batted .257 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 171 at-bats in 2019. He is a career .279 hitter with 270 home runs and 1,015 RBIs.

Zimmerman said he was pretty certain he’d return to the diamond.

“I don’t think it was ever 100%, but I don’t think it was under, like, 95%,” he said. “Once I was hanging out at home and watching the games and kind of getting into life without baseball, I think that number shot up to pretty close to 100% very quickly on my end.”

Zimmerman thanked general manager Mike Rizzo and the organization for the chance to play again.

“I didn’t know if they were going to offer me a major league deal, or if they were going to want me to come down on a minor league deal,” he said. “I’m 36 years old, and I haven’t played baseball in a year. So I think that shows, obviously, the respect that (Rizzo) and the team have for me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.”

Zimmerman gave up a $2 million salary last season, but received a $2 million buyout for the declined option at the end of his previous contract.

In addition to his $1 million base salary this year, Zimmerman can earn $250,000 for games: $50,000 each for 50, 65, 80, 95 and 100. He also can make $250,000 for plate appearances: $50,000 apiece for 200, 250, 300, 350 and 400.

He also gets a one-day use of Nationals Park for charity, as a provision in his contract.

Zimmerman’s deal includes $500,000 if he’s league MVP or $200,000 if he finishes second through fifth in voting. He would get $100,000 for making the All-Star team and another $100,000 if he’s the top vote-getter. Zimmerman would earn $250,000 for World Series MVP. $150,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $100,000 for Gold Glove, $100,000 for Silver Slugger. $100,000 for the Hank Aaron Award and $100,000 if he is Baseball America or The Sporting News player of the year.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.