Ryan Zimmerman has played nearly a full season of games three times in six seasons. He’s hit over .300 only once in that span. He’s hit more than 30 home runs only once in that span. He’s had an OPS under .800 in three of six seasons. Just last season, he only appeared in 101 games due to yet another injury riddled year. Somehow, that warrants a $100 million extension from the Washington Nationals, the same team that felt inclined to give Jayson Werth the worst contract in baseball a year ago.
Zimmerman is definitely an above average third baseman who has been the face of the Nationals franchise and is entering his prime at age 27. That said, Zimmerman has never put up a monster season that put him even in the top 15 of MVP voting in any single season. He’s a one-time All-Star. In other words, he’s a nice player but not a $100 million one.
This is the kind of contract that’s bad for baseball. No, it’s horrible. You can say it’s one team’s business to spend how they want, but the Nationals do not exist in a vacuum. Other players will want an extension and they will use the Zimmerman deal as an example.
The Royals are currently faced with the prospect of losing Alex Gordon if they don’t sign him to a contract extension. An early extension buying out some of free agency has been brought up for Eric Hosmer. What will the Royals do if even above average players are given 9-figure contracts? Can they afford them? Absolutely not.
The Nationals are running their organization the way another DC-area team runs its finances. The Redskins have thrown money at the wall and hope it sticks in free agency many times and have nothing to show for it but a revolving door of former head coaches. As strong as the team’s drafting and farm system has been, their approach to free agency has been so over-the-top that it will cripple the franchise over time.
Perhaps Zimmerman will turn the corner and become the cornerstone third baseman they are paying him to be. But draft choice Anthony Rendon is already the “third baseman of the future” and now must find another position. It seems as if the Nationals aren't even thinking that far down the road, however, given how short-sighted their actions are today.