Ryan Zimmerman is precisely the kind of player we take for granted. He isn't a big enough star to warrant the, "Of course he is going to the Yankees," talk, but he is also good enough to be the face of the Nationals franchise. I can't imagine the team from Washington without Zimmerman covering the Hot Corner, and hopefully, I never will.
But a section of a recent Adam Kilgore article on the Washington Post made my eyebrows jump.
Ryan Zimmerman pointed something out tonight that was obvious, easy to overlook and suddenly quite pertinent. If he hadn't signed his contract extension in the spring of 2009, he would be getting ready to enter free agency for the first time. The face of the franchise, potentially, could be close to finding a new franchise.
Why would he say that? Is he trying to make us all nervous? Because its working.
Stephen Strasburg may have been the face of the franchise during this season because he was the most exciting talent, but Ryan Zimmerman is at the very least the backbone. He's been playing gold glove caliber (robbery I tell you) defense and anchoring the heart of the lineup since he became a full time Major League player in 2006.
But that quote just sort of rubs me the wrong way. Ryan Zimmerman has said numerous times, including in the body of that article, that he wants to be with the Nationals for the long haul. If that's the case (and I do believe him when he says it) why even bring up the fact that h could have been a free agent if he chose that path? It makes it seem like he regrets that decision.
The only thing I can think of is that he is trying to urge the organization to speed up the (re)building process.
Last year, Zimmerman willingly delayed his first crack at free agency in return for security, and also to agree to play for the team that had finished with the league's worst record and would do so again the next year. "I did that because I believed we'd be winning by now," Zimmerman said. "I still believe that."
First of all, I'm not sure how he could "still" believe that the Nationals would be winning by now when it is already now and they clearly aren't winning, but that isn't really the most important part of that quote.
Zim has been playing on a last place team for practically his entire time in Washington. Winning is clearly important to him, so I can imagine that this has to be wearing on him. Making sure he says how important winning is to him at every chance possible is a pretty subtle way of showing the organization that they need to start winning, or that they he might become disinterested.
Losing Adam Dunn probably doesn't help that cause.
Zimmerman is signed with the Nationals through 2013, which gives them plenty of time to put a winning team around him. Some of those pieces are already in place. But transitioning from a Bowden masterpiece to a Rizzo vision takes a little bit of time. Time the Nationals may not have if they want to keep Zimmerman in the fold.
This is an important offseason if the team wants to realize that vision. Losing Dunn hurts, but they have the chance to add some talent in key areas. Shore up the defense at first base, add another top of the line starter, maybe an outfield piece or too. Because now it's not just about appeasing the fans, it's about appeasing your best player.