I just got off the phone with Ryan Zimmerman, who was making the rounds of phone calls back to reporters in the wake of the news Adam Dunn had signed a four-year deal with the Chicago White Sox. It's no secret Zimmerman and Dunn were close on and off the field, and Zimmerman had been one of the most vocal proponents for the Nationals resigning the slugger.
Zimmerman wasn't exactly thrilled to find out Dunn is leaving, and though he said he still trusts the plan of the Nationals' front office, he added he'll be closely watching how the rest of the offseason proceeds.
"Knowing that we had one of the three top free agents on our team and we didn't want to resign him, it's frustrating for us as players," Zimmerman said. "We're not in the front office. We don't make the decisions, and we don't have to write the checks. But we're getting to the point on our team where we're supposed to wait it out, wait for the young guys, start doing some things and start making some moves. Not only are we ready for that, I think the fans are, as well. We've trusted the front office, and we still trust them. But we want to best possible team on the field."
The 26-year-old third baseman has plenty of reasons to watch the Nationals' plans with a healthy skepticism. His best two seasons have come with Dunn hitting behind him; Zimmerman has won two straight Silver Slugger Awards, and hit over .300 for the first time this season. Dunn and he had become close, lockering together in the corner of the Nationals' clubhouse and lounging on leather recliners to watch games together. Even in the offseason, Zimmerman said, they call each other almost every day to talk football, and have plans to watch the Super Bowl together in February.
Both players were also counted upon to set the tone in the clubhouse, and Zimmerman - who admitted again he was less likely to speak up in the clubhouse than Dunn was - clearly appreciated the help the first baseman gave him.
"My whole view on leadership is that great leaders never have to talk about it and never have to do things to make people say they're great leaders," Zimmerman said. "Those are the people who do everything for the wrong reasons. Me and (Adam) are on the same page. We would do things where people can't see it. He taught me a lot about that as well, to keep things under wraps - you don't need everyone to know you're doing this for a player, you're doing that for a player."
Zimmerman, whose contract runs through 2013, is rarely one to voice frustration with the front office, and was careful not to do it overtly on Thursday. But he also had some strong words about how much Dunn will be missed and how his presence in the lineup needs to be replaced this winter.
"When you add a guy like that, a bona fide No. 4 hitter, it lengthens your lineup a ton - a guy that would be hitting fifth is hitting sixth," Zimmerman said. "It makes the other team notice. I think all of us notice what they (in the front office) do. We've trusted their plan the whole time, and now it's getting to that point where it's time to do some things. We know we have a good young team, but we need a few pieces. Obviously, you're not going to do all that in one season, but you can add a piece here and add a piece there."