The final, long-expected transaction of the World Series champions’ offseason is now official.
The Washington Nationals and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman reached an agreement on a one-year contract, the team announced Tuesday.
Zimmerman, 35, said during the offseason that he intended to either play for the Nationals again or retire. He became a free agent when the Nationals declined to pick up the $18 million option on his previous contract days after they won the World Series over the Houston Astros.
Initial reports over the weekend said Zimmerman’s base salary will be $2 million with another $3 million available in incentives.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday via conference call, Zimmerman said that there was no “disconnect” on the financial end of negotiations with the front office and he never questioned whether Washington would bring him back.
“No, I don’t think there was ever any doubt,” Zimmerman said. “I was kind of in contact with them from the end of the season. They obviously had some more pressing issues to sum up at the beginning of the offseason, so we kind of knew that we weren’t gonna start the conversation or dialogue until those things were taken care of.”
Those issues were certainly a reference to the Nationals’ two marquee free agents: starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who re-signed on a $245 million deal, and third baseman Anthony Rendon, who left for the Los Angeles Angels.
So it took until two weeks before spring training to put pen to paper and have his physical, but Zimmerman was never in a hurry. In December, at the premiere of the Nationals’ World Series documentary, he said his intentions were clear: “It’s either play some more here or play more golf.”
He revisited that line Tuesday.
“That was obviously just my attempt at humor,” he said. “I think everyone said how bad of a negotiator I was, but at this point in my career there’s really nothing to negotiate.”
Zimmerman was the first draft pick in Nationals franchise history after they moved to Washington from Montreal. He remains the only holdover from the 2005 team, which has earned him the nickname “Mr. National.”
He is already the Nationals’ all-time leader in hits (1,784), doubles (401), home runs (270), runs batted in (1,015) and total extra-base hits (693). He is just 12 runs away from passing Tim Raines (947) as the franchise’s career leader in that category, as well.
With Zimmerman under contract, the Nationals’ platoon of seven infielders comes into focus. Trea Turner is an everyday shortstop when healthy, but the three bases will be timeshares, allowing manager Dave Martinez to mix and match combinations as needed. Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick and Asdrúbal Cabrera are all in their mid-30s and will need days off. The Nationals also signed first baseman Eric Thames and second baseman Starlin Castro in free agency, and top minor-leaguer Carter Kieboom could see time at second and third.
Zimmeman has not discussed his 2020 workload with Martinez or general manager Mike Rizzo yet, he said, but he imagined something in the range of 250 to 300 at-bats. That said, he is ready for whatever comes up.
“You guys know how long a baseball season is. We’ve all been through it,” Zimmerman said. “At some point something is gonna happen where other guys are gonna have to step up. I’ve trained this offseason and sort of made myself be ready to play as many games as they need me to play.”
Due to plantar fasciitis in his foot, Zimmerman played just 52 regular-season games last year, batting .257 with six home runs. But in the postseason he made his mark, playing all but one of Washington’s games at first base and piling up 32 hits. He had two home runs in October, including the first World Series home run in franchise history.
Washington now has 39 players on its 40-man roster with spring training about two weeks away. Pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach, Florida, on Feb. 12, with their first workout scheduled for the next day. Position players will join them on Feb. 17 — and Zimmerman will be there, preparing to embark on his 16th Major League season.
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