One of this weekend's biggest stories was the five-year, $42 million contract extension that the Washington Nationals bestowed upon Gio Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, one of the bigger stories this offseason has been the Nats emerging at the front of a surprisingly small pack of squads that is interested in making Prince Fielder a very rich man.
Suffocatingly sandwiched somewhere between those two stories is Ryan Zimmerman, the third baseman long acknowledged as the team's positional cornerstone. While owner Ted Lerner learns to open his sizable pocketbook for new players like Gonzalez, Jayson Werth and possibly even Fielder, people like Nats Enquirer are wondering if Zimmerman will find himself as the recipient of a new deal when the spending spree is over and done with.
Considering that Zimmerman still has two years left on his current contract, a potential re-up doesn't exactly qualify as one of baseball's most pressing matters. But given his tenure and stature on the team, Zimmerman's extension status arguably falls just behind the murky financial futures of Tim Lincecum and Joey Votto. So much so that Washington Post beat writer Adam Kilgore recently devoted a post to the subject and how a possible Fielder signing might affect it.
From the Washington Post:
The Nationals have the means to build and sustain a team with Fielder, Zimmerman and their other core players, at a price tag of about $145 million in payroll per year once the 2015 season rolls around. With all the disposable income in the DMV area, a coming bump in television revenue and the Lerner's billionaire wealth, Washington can be that kind of market.
Kilgore believes that Zimmerman or Fielder only becomes a choice if the Nationals decide to make it one. And, of course, the dream of building an immediate contender could die if the Texas Rangers step up their pursuit of Fielder once the Yu Darvish situation is resolved this week.
Regardless of where Fielder lands, it's hard to tell where Zimmerman and the Nats currently stand. Though the 27-year-old has expressed a desire to stay with Washington long term, it's likely that his injury in 2011 has complicated things a bit: A torn abdominal muscle limited him to just 101 games with 12 homers, 49 RBI and a .798 OPS.
That injury was just bad medical luck, but I'm guessing the injury delayed Zimmerman's dreams of landing a Troy Tulowitzki- or Ryan Braun-type contract this early in the process (especially when there were/are other trophies to be bagged).
The good news is that there's still plenty of time to get a deal done with both sides getting additional opportunity to better gauge how the other might help them toward onfield success. Zimmerman might not see it that way — there isn't a soul alive who'd prefer to sign a nine-figure deal yesterday instead of tomorrow — but his leverage could really be bolstered if Fielder decides to sign elsewhere and GM Mike Rizzo catches a glance of the upcoming free agent fields, which are relatively thin on star power.