Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Case For...

Yesterday, Sean did an admirable job of taking the unpopular stance that the Nats should avoid signing Ryan Zimmerman to an extension. His argument was three-fold and all well-thought out - 1) health 2) Rendon 3) 2014 is a long way away. While these points are all based upon the past it in no way proves to be a harbinger for the future - IE, lacking statistical evidence.

Let's face it - Ryan Zimmerman is, and has been since Draft Day 2005, the Face of the Franchise. He is the first player the team ever had that was identifiable on a National scale, whether it was defensive highlights on Baseball Tonight's Web Gems or walk-off Home Runs on every holiday known to man.

Yes, we have Strasburg and Harper ready to tear through the National League East, but that is still coming. Zimmerman is our past as well as our future. When NatsTown had nothing but an old beat up stadium, there was Zimmerman. When the Nats were busy losing 100+ games for the 2nd straight year, Zimmerman was there to win the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. But what's more impressive is that he is just about to hit the prime of his career (28-32).

In the six full seasons Zimmerman has played, he has played 140+ games four times - and in the other two seasons he has played at least 100 in each. Yes, he has been DLed for a shoulder injury way back in 2008 - a result of sliding head-first into 2nd base (headfirst slide injuries have been pretty common lately). His other lengthy DL trip (oblique) was this past year, dubbed "The Year of the Oblique", where he injured himself, once again, sliding into 2nd base. Having missed 10 games with an oblique injury at the end of 2010, albeit a different spot, Zimmerman elected to have surgery to prevent the problem from returning.

As far as his throwing motion is concerned, it should be a non-issue. Despite the fact that 8 of his 12 errors were throwing errors this past year, he seemed to really fall into place in the final few months of the season. His throwing motion does look awkward, but after an entire off-season of work plus spring training he should be 100% for next year. A few throwing errors are forgivable for the Best NL 3B (via UZR) over the past 4 seasons.

When he is on, like in 2009 and 2010, he is one of the best players in all of baseball - in fact his total WAR from '09-'10 (14.5) placed 3rd among all MLB hitters (behind some guys named Pujols and Longoria). Both seasons rank as the two best WAR seasons of any Nats player ever - and it's not even close.

In Zimmerman, the Nationals have one of the best 3B in all of baseball, but we do have a top prospect in waiting; Rendon. Nats Brass has said that for now Rendon will be playing 3B. So, my proposal would be to have Zimmerman, who can pick a baseball with the best of them, move over to 1B - while Rendon comes up at 3B. *Yes, I know that we haven't seen Rendon in action yet, this is purely hypothetical* This move would give the Nats an infield with Rendon, Desmond, Espinosa, and Zimmerman - top notch "D" all across the board. It would keep Zimmerman healthier due to the easier mobility necessary at 1B while giving him more of a focus on his offensive game.

Outside of baseball, Zimmerman has never been a person that was interested in earning the biggest possible contract, taking a team friendly 5 year/$45 million extension back in 2009. One would think that with his commitment to the ziMS foundation in DC as well as his personal ties to the area (growing up in nearby VA Beach, Mother and Father close by) I believe that Zimmerman would be happy just to stay in one town his entire career - Michael Young-style. The money shouldn't be an issue anyway, considering that we do have the richest owner in all of baseball, and he is very willing to open up his checkbook for the right piece.

I believe that Rizzo and Lerner should sit down this offseason and try and hammer out an extension that can keep Ryan Zimmerman as the Face of the Franchise for the rest of his career. If you aren't willing to open up the wallet for one of the top 3B in baseball, the Face of your Franchise, and a possible Future Hall-of-Famer who can you open it up for?

Which camp do you fall in? For or Against?


  1. Absolutely for. If baseball had the franchise player concept, Zim would be the man.

  2. A very firm maybe or let's wait a year and see. Although -- he might be cheaper now - if he has a healthy, beastly year the price will go up.

  3. For, but only partially for the reasons you state. The idea of moving Zimm to make room for Rendon is silly. Let's let the guy dominate at AA for half a year before we move a Gold Glover off the position, ok?

    The reason to extend him is that he's just worth it. There is nobody not named Longoria who you would rather have at that position for the next 5-7 years. Depending on whose WAR you believe he's a 5-7 WAR/yr. guy who is also the undisputed leader of this franchise. If he were a far more ordinary, but simply above average player (like a Markakis, or a Werth) or older, like a Markakis, I think you could still easily make a "He's the FotF" argument for signing. But in this case, he's also that damn good. It's a major, major leap of faith to presume that Espinosa, Ramos, Magical Mystery CFer, Harper and Rendon will all develop enough to make up for him.

    To sort of shoot at the "case against" for a minute, even if they DO develop enough to fill his production in the lineup, the Nats aren't yet at a point where they can choose to let production go because it will be filled in - they still need a good bit more offensive production if they're really going to contend 2013 and beyond. Letting Zim walk is plain crazy - like "you should have your franchise taken away from you and Rizzo should be banned from baseball" crazy.

    The interesting case against is the "what if we trade him and push our contention window out to 2014-2019." Zimmerman would net a king's ransom if he gets traded this year. What if you could get like an Ackley + Smoak return for him? Or a Moustakas + Hosmer? That would put two more potentially great 23-24 year olds in the bucket with Ramos, Espinosa, etc. You'd take a step back in 2012, but it would set up to be the clear favorite in 2014. To me, that's the only argument against that makes sense - instead of being above-average in 2012 an 2013 and then trying to contend in 2014 and 2015 as Zim may start to decline, you push all your chips in on 2014-2017 and try to win three pennants in a row.

    Nah. Sign him. He's our guy.