All signs point to Ryan Zimmerman returning to Nationals

Todd Dybas
NBC Sports Washington

Ryan Zimmerman reminded everyone of his future plans when standing at the podium during the Nationals' celebratory rally. He is not retiring. Even if he meets people in their 20s who recount how Zimmerman was their favorite player when they were kids. 

Zimmerman filled the last year with firsts and repeats. He, like the team, advanced out of a playoff series for the first time. Winning the World Series and parading down Constitution Avenue added to his list of new items. Becoming a free agent is also fresh territory.

The all-too-familiar part: plantar fasciitis and a litany of missed games. Zimmerman's meager 190 plate appearances were the fewest across a full season in his career. The total frustrated him. Head-to-ankle he felt well. His foot, however, would not cooperate. Zimmerman's plantar fasciitis tear was partial instead of complete, forcing a drag in his recovery process. A clean tear makes for a clean recuperation protocol. The partial tear is more of a wait-and-see process. Which is also where he currently stands with free agency.

Zimmerman made clear he wants to return. He expects to work on one-year deals going forward. The team wants him to return. It will be happy to offer a one-year deal - perhaps with an option and undoubtedly with incentives - going forward. Expect Zimmerman to be the starting first baseman march 26, 2020 in Citi Field. 

"When he's a healthy player, he's a pretty damn good one still," Mike Rizzo said.

So, what's reasonable production to expect? Perhaps close to the average of 2016 and 2017. Combine those two seasons - when Zimmerman was OK then made a surprise All-Star Game appearance - to arrive at 130 games played. That is probably too high. Reduce it by 15 or so. Project home run totals in the low 20s if he plays that much. A .265 average would be in line with his career arc. 

Washington needs to find a left-handed first baseman to serve as a compliment and insurance. Mitch Moreland - 19 home runs, 112 OPS-plus in 335 plate appearances last season - appears a clear fit. Switch-hitters Neil Walker and Justin Smoak are also options, though both are better as right-handed hitters during their career and both are approaching their mid-30s.

Matt Adams could return. He fit well in the clubhouse. He understands and accepts his role. Washington declined Adams' $4 million team option two days after it won the World Series. If it chooses to bring Adams back, which is possible but unlikely, the first base platoon could cost less than $10 million total, or $4 million less than Zimmerman cost alone in 2019.

Moreland should fetch more, even as a part-time player. Boston paid him $6.5 million in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Since he would be just a platoon player in Washington, the organization would conceivably want to drive his cost more in line with that role. 

Whoever becomes the secondary piece will likely join Zimmerman for Year 16 in Washington. He's seen the team grow from laughingstock to high expectations to World Series champions in the first 15. 

"So you're really talking about '08 to '12, so four years of growth for an organization to then be expected to make the playoffs," Zimmerman said before Game 7 of the World Series. "And then all of a sudden if you don't get past the first round of the playoffs, you're a huge disappointment. So it all happened kind of fast. Which, if you play at this level, that's kind of the expectations you want. You want your fans to be disappointed if you don't make the playoffs. But it all happened very fast.

"It's been fun to be a part of. It's been fun to kind of grow with the fans, with the neighborhood, with the community, with the organization, really."

Expect it to continue for one more year - minimum.

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All signs point to Ryan Zimmerman returning to Nationals originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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