Ryan Zimmerman’s future is clear in one context: he will remain with the Nationals.
The question is, in what capacity?
Zimmerman decided not to play this season. He cited family concerns as they relate to coronavirus and chose to stay home, where he and his wife, Heather, continued their charitable work and child rearing.
Without him, the Nationals ended up with a void at first base. Howie Kendrick’s hamstring problems and the addition of a designated hitter spot quickly thinned the Nationals options.
A weird offseason is coming. Last year, there was no doubt Zimmerman would return. He and the organization waited until the rest of the roster was filled out. Then they agreed to a one-year contract. Zimmerman said he would be willing to play on a series of one-year contracts from the end of 2019 on. He signed one. He would likely sign another.
Mike Rizzo said Friday on 106.7 The Fan he has kept in contact with Zimmerman during the season.
“He’s one of the faces of the franchise and he’s a hell of a nice guy, so he’s easy to talk to,” Rizzo said.
Have they talked about what’s next?
“He’s a National for life and we’d love to have him around, be it on the field or when his career is finally over, in some type of front office or Nationals liaison type of job,” Rizzo said.
Zimmerman is assured of being in Washington because of a prior contractual condition. When he retires, a “person services” contract for five years kicks in at $2 million annually. The sweetener was part of his 2012 extension, which ended last season. That style of deal has since been banned in Major League Baseball.
Which leaves two options for the winter: another one-year deal or the personal-services contract begins. The Nationals could use a right-handed bat to platoon at first base. They also will likely be dealing with the designated hitter spot in 2021. And, they need a left-handed bat to platoon at first base.
The calculus they need to do in regard to Zimmerman (soon to be 36) is whether they think they can find younger talent for a similar cost in a suppressed free agent market. Or if they want to blend him with Kendrick (who has a mutual option with the club), so they can be used in part at first base and DH. It would be similar to a concept the Nationals tried this season when they initially overloaded their infield with veterans in order to spread out playing time.
It also comes with dangers. Time on the injured list is almost assured for one or both. If the issues overlap, the team is short-handed and few internal fixes exist.
As for the second part, Rizzo said that is yet to come up.
“No, we’ve never spoken about him not playing yet. He felt going into this season, he still had time left in his ability. He felt great going into this season and we’ve always talked about his playing career.”
So, Zimmerman will be in a batter’s box or a suite next year. Either way, he’s not going anywhere.