Amazingly, the Nationals are catching some criticism for signing franchise cornerstone Ryan Zimmerman to a six-year contract extension over the weekend. It's being suggested by some that the club should have offered Zimmerman a much shorter pact, since they have Anthony Rendon waiting in the wings.
Hey, I'm as optimistic about Rendon's future as anyone, but I'm pretty sure his professional resume is essentially non-existent at the moment. Would you bet your house that Rendon will be no worse than Zimmerman's equal in two years?
Neither would the Nationals.
Look, Rendon was pretty much the hands-down best hitting prospect available in the 2011 draft. That he fell to the Nats with the sixth overall pick was based on several issues including signability and health; Rendon has suffered injuries to his right shoulder as well as his right ankle.
Rendon's athleticism has never been questioned, and most scouts agree that he could probably play a solid second base, or even transition to the outfield. It's fair to speculate that Zimmerman could find himself across the diamond himself before his contract expires, but at the moment he's still a top drawer third baseman. Yes, he had some throwing issues in 2011, but he re-made his throwing mechanics and by August his accuracy had returned.
The Nationals are in a position they've never been in before: they have genuine depth in their farm system that should allow them to maintain some continuity at several positions. A portion of that depth will end up with other ballclubs - that's just the way it works - and others will graduate to Washington.
Zimmerman's new deal is another step toward organizational continuity, as well as a solid marketing move. Zimmerman is exactly the kind of player you want to lock down for their career. Low maintenance, solid performer, not a whiff of scandal or unpleasantness. He won't play in 2,632 straight games, but his temperament and carriage remind many of Cal Ripken.
I'd say that's worth embracing.