PHILADELPHIA - Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals bats during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
The Nationals want to extend Ryan Zimmerman beyond 2013, but the All Star third baseman doesn't want to distract his teammates, and he's given a Saturday deadline.
The Nationals stunned the world by giving Jayson Werth a huge deal last year. They were reportedly in on everyone from C.J. Wilson to Prince Fielder this offseason. They haven't been the Expos for a while, but all this spending makes it feel like they're exorcising some Canadian/Jeffrey Loria demons.
The spending increase is a good thing for the Nationals and their fans, for the most part. There is a side effect to the spending, though. A player like Ryan Zimmerman isn't going to be swayed by any talk of hometown discounts, not when everyone in the hometown is driving a Bentley. And according to Adam Kilgore, there are just a couple of days left for the Nationals to extend Zimmerman.
Zimmerman has been adamant about his desire to table negotiations by the start of spring training in order avoid distraction for himself and his teammates ... He says the deadline is Saturday morning.
It's not a hard deadline, really, because Zimmerman is signed through 2013. Even if there's no contract before spring training ends, he'll still be in the same spring training complex at this time next year. And the sense of urgency should be restricted to the Nationals' side -- Zimmerman is coming off a bit of a down season, so unless he knows that the hip bone makes a sound like a broken car window when it connects to the thigh bone, he shouldn't be especially interested in committing to a new deal when his value is at its lowest point in years.
But he'll still be expensive. And it seems hard to believe that the Nationals aren't going to do everything possible to re-sign Zimmmerman. Before Strasburg and Harper, before Gio and Jayson, Zimmerman was the Nationals. He was the face of a franchise, the only player the team could count on to be around when they were planning bobblehead giveaways and projecting t-shirt sales. Heck, he still is. He was the first player to define baseball for an area that had gone decades without it.
If the Nationals were the same ol' Nationals that operated like a quasi-expansion franchise after moving from Montreal, you could almost see Zimmerman considering a hometown discount to remain as the face-of-the-franchise emeritus while Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper ramped up to stardom. But it's clear that the Nationals' plans are going beyond those of a mom-and-pop organization. It's not all about getting a high draft pick and hoping for the best. They're going to spend to win.
With that spending come consequences, too. When the Prince Fielder negotiations were going on, the Nats had to know that a $200 million contract would seriously hurt their chances to retain Zimmerman, who could command a contract somewhere between Werth and Prince.
Along with that spending come expectations. The fans expect the Nats to keep Zimmerman; Zimmerman expects to be paid like the superstar the Nationals have been trying to acquire through free agency. The Nats haven't been shy about their offseason targets. They've even landed a couple. But what that means is that if there once was a 25 percent chance that Zimmerman would consider a hometown discount, there's something just under a zero percent chance now.
If he has a good-not-great season again, a delayed extension probably won't hit the Nationals too hard. But if Zimmerman rebounds to have the MVP-caliber seasons he's capable of, look out. The Nationals might lose their homegrown star to another big-spending team like the Royals.
Hey, we just finished an offseason where the Marlins went nuts. I'm just trying to stay ahead of the curve. It could be the Royals.
When it comes time for the Nationals to pay for Zimmerman, they likely will. The Nationals haven't been cheap, but that means it's especially likely that Zimmerman isn't going to be either.