The Washington Nationals have inked star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to a six-year $100 million contract extension. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and a $24 million club option for 2020.
With two years and $26 million remaining on Zimmerman’s current contract, the extension could keep the twenty-seven-year-old third baseman in Washington until 2020 (Source). In total, he could earn as much as $150 million over the next nine years.
Zimmerman becomes the game’s second highest paid third baseman, behind only Alex Rodriguez, and he ‘s one of six players with a contract that stretches through 2019. The other names on that exclusive list are Braun, Fielder, Kemp, Pujols and Tulowitzki.
Yesterday, we heard that the two sides were closing in on an agreement, but the sole hang-up was the inclusion of a no-trade clause. Zimmerman, who grew up in Virginia and played baseball for the UVA Cavaliers, has spent the entirety of his professional baseball career with the Nationals. He was the franchises’ first draft pick following their move to Washington (from Montreal), and he’s watched the club survive losing seasons and growing pains to become one of the game’s most exciting young teams. The Nationals tabbed Zimmerman as their franchise player as soon as he put on their uniform, and they obviously wanted to have him lead the ballclub into a golden age alongside other hometown heroes Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Drew Storen. The two sides ironed-out the contract’s final details last night and the Nationals agreed to include a no-trade clause.
Speaking to media about his extension (Source), Zimmerman explained his sentimental attachment to the Nationals and emphasized his strong desire to spend his career in Washington:
“This is where I want to be and where I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve been here when times were bad. They’ve done a great job of building this organization up. We have young guys who are just now starting to get here and we’re going to be good for a long time. I wanted to make sure I was here for that…I’ve always been comfortable here… I know the person who lets me into the parking lot. I know the people who watch the family room, the cook, everyone. It isn’t just about baseball. It’s about everyone I’ve met here. Everyone who’s helped me get to where I am today, and you sort of feel like you owe them too.”
At his request, Zimmerman’s contract extension also includes $10 million of deferred compensation. Zimmerman included this provision with hopes of freeing up extra budget room for the Nationals to retain their core players and spend on free agents. Following his retirement, the Nationals will pay him $10 million over five years to work for the franchise in a coaching or consulting capacity.
Though he struggled through an injury-shortened campaign in 2011, Zimmerman has developed in to Washington’s franchise player and is one of the game’s elite performers. He ranked among the NL’s top ten in oWAR (offensive Wins-Above-Replacement) in both 2009 and 2010, and took home Silver Sluggers in both seasons. He’s also established himself as one of the game’s top fielding third baseman, and was honored with his first Gold Glove in 2009, when he was just twenty-five years old.
Zimmerman has been touted as the Nationals’ franchise player since the club selected him with the 4th overall pick in 2005 MLB Amateur Draft. A local boy, taken out of the University of Virginia, Zimmerman raced through the minor leagues and made his Nationals debut the following September. GM Jim Bowden and the Nats traded Vinny Castilla to the Padres and handed the twenty-one-year-old rookie their starting third base job the following season. Despite the pressure, Zimmerman flourished immediately and finished second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting– behind Hanley Ramirez– after hitting .287/.351/.471.
Zimmerman spent his next two seasons posting impressive numbers as the lone bright spot on the National League’s losingest team. During Washington’s dark period, Zimmerman won the fans’ hearts, collecting a ridiculously clutch seven walk-off hits. He then broke out in 2009, batting .292/.364/.525 with 33 homeruns, 106 RBI while earning his first All-Star nod and taking home both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. He followed with an even better 2010 season, batting .307 and posting an .899 OPS while finishing sixth in the National League with a 5.3 rWAR.
Zimmerman has spent his young career with a rebuilding club, quietly performing at a star-level but forfeiting the spotlight. He’s now prepared to reap the rewards from his loyalty and hard work. The Nationals’ future has drastically brightened recently, as the club turned their losing records into a net-positive by stocking up on top draft picks. Throughout the past three summers, the Nationals have used their first-round picks brilliantly, drafting young superstars Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon. They’ve used their later draft picks efficiently as well, adding top-prospects AJ Cole (now with Oakland), Sammy Solis, Brian Goodwin, Alex Meyer and Matt Purke.
Trying to guarantee a long career in Washington, the no-trade clause included in the contract was a very important point for Zimmerman. The clause will kick in following the completion of the final two-years on his current contract. However, if the Nationals did choose to trade him before 2014 (when his extension activates), the value of his new contract with increase dramatically.
Ryan Zimmerman clearly had every reason to sign an extension and include a no-trade clause in his new contract. Add the acquisitions of premium big league talents, Jason Werth, Gio Gonzalez, Wilson Ramos and Mike Morse, to a stock of homegrown stars that includes Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, and the Nationals appear to be entering a winning era. After remaining loyal to a club that finished last in their division in five of his seven big league seasons, Zimmerman has the opportunity to lead a team of phenomenal young players into a bright future.