Ryan Zimmerman was drafted by the Nationals in 2005. He made his major league debut that fall. He signed a five-year extension with them in 2009. He signed a $100 million extension with them in 2012. There’s been no reason to question his contract status with the organization since.
But that long-term deal was going to expire eventually, and that time is finally drawing near. Zimmerman is set to make $18 million in 2019. He has no guarantees after that, only an $18 million club option for 2020 that the Nationals can buy out if they choose for $2 million.
Zimmerman will turn 35 shortly before the end of the upcoming season. He remains a productive hitter when he’s on the field, but it gets tougher with each passing season to keep him on the field. And so for the first time, it’s fair to start wondering what his future is beyond 2019.
Others may be wondering. Zimmerman, however, isn’t worried at all.
“We’ve done two contracts here,” he said. “Myself, my representation, has always had a great relationship with the Lerner family, with Mike (Rizzo), with anyone who has ever been making the decision. Stan Kasten back when he was here. So the thought of having any problems coming to an agreement moving forward, you know, I don’t really see that happening.”
There’s no rush for the Nationals to make a decision on Zimmerman’s 2020 option anytime soon. They can wait for the 2019 season to play out and see how he performs before making the call. If he plays 130-plus games and produces like he typically has, another $18 million salary isn’t unreasonable. If he struggles at all, they might well decide to enact the buyout clause but then come to agreement on a lesser deal to return.
Zimmerman doesn’t expect the process to be messy at all.
“I still would like to get compensated fairly, but it’s not like I am going to go somewhere else and play for an extra couple bucks,” he said. “I don’t think it’s any secret I’d like to finish here. I’m really optimistic about what will happen, and it goes back to me just staying healthy and playing to begin with. It’s on me. If I want to continue playing, I have to prove that I am worth it to keep investing.”
Any negotiations will be handled on Zimmerman’s behalf by Jeff Berry of CAA, the agency that has represented him his entire career. Brodie Van Wagenen, who led CAA’s baseball division and had been Zimmerman’s designated agent and longtime confidant, surprised everyone in the industry when he left the company last month to become the Mets’ new general manager.
Though he never got an inkling from Van Wagenen about an interest in shifting to a role in a club’s front office, Zimmerman strongly supported his former agent’s plan and has no doubt he’ll be successful.
“I mean, it’s a great opportunity for him,” Zimmerman said. “He’s an intelligent guy who knows the ins and outs of both sides of baseball. I think he’ll do a great job.”