Skip to content

Nats, Zim can learn from Pujols drama

Dec 9, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT

US Presswire photo
Ryan Zimmerman has two years remaining on his contract.

Now that the dust has settled from a wild Winter Meetings in Dallas, the baseball world is starting to come to grips with the idea of Albert Pujols playing in Anaheim. It's not at all where anyone expected the game's best player to land. And it's certainly not St. Louis, where most assumed he would stay.

The lesson to be learned here, of course, is that no matter how much we want to believe iconic players will forever be attached to one franchise, this remains a business first. Players want to have the ability to choose the city where they'll be the most comfortable and/or make the most money.

In Pujols' case, the comfort of Anaheim appeared to slightly outweigh the money of Miami (not that $254 million is chump change). The entire package clearly enticed Pujols more than what he would have received had he remained with the Cardinals.

Though the endgame for Pujols played out over a few frantic hours in Dallas Wednesday night, this drama had been developing over theRead more »

  1. Gonat - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Its apples and oranges. Pujols has been grossly underpaid for years at $14 million a season and based on the amount of games Zim has actually played in, Zim has been overpaid on a per game basis. Still you want to see Zim tied up long-term.

  2. Anonymous - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    A potential Zim extension is just not even on the radar right now. The club would be nuts to guarantee a bunch of money from 2014 on right now and Zim would be nuts to set his value right now. Let's talk about more timely stuff in here.dfh21

  3. Natslifer - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Not going to happen until after this season. But I'd like to hear his agent be honest and just say they want Zim to have a full, healthy season to set his market price (instead of "we said/they said"). The only thing that could get in the way here is the macro economic situation – a really risk averse person might be tempted to lock in now. But Zimmy's young and I seriously doubt that's going to happen.

  4. Natslifer - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    It's a great scene in Jerry Maguire at the end where after the game Cruise/Maguire are in the tunnel with Frey/Wilburn. Maguire smiles and says something like "this is going to cost you" and Wilburn smiles back accepting that it is but happy that he's got a great player. That's what we should all be looking forward to after this season.

  5. MicheleS - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    DFH.. this is timely considered the FOF of the Cards just jumped shipped to the Angels. the $$$ for Pujols for the last 11 years may not compare to what Zimm is gettig as Gonat has stated, but the situations are the so eerily similar that it it worth point this out. All sides (Zimm, Nats, Fans) all need to be aware that something like this can happen. It sounds like something happened with Pujols and the cards to create some bad blood (I.e. the Matt Holliday contract) and it just festered for two years. Gee don't we have our own Matt Holliday contract (See Jayson Werth).My Hope is that the first 3 or 4 months of the season Zimm has a great season and sometime around 7/31 he signs a long term extension with the Nats

  6. sjm308 - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Nice article Mark and since Pujols did just shock the world I think it is a timely piece. Also liked how positive you are about what lies ahead for both Ryan and the Nats. Its definitely not going to happen until after this season as several others have mentioned but maybe this will keep the doomsdayers from moaning about it not being done immediately. Looks like it will get done though and thats the good I took from this.

  7. Sunderland - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Agree with dfh21. Contract is in place for 2 more seasons. RZ has averaged only 490 AB's over the past 4 seasons. Both sides will not be able to find happy common ground right now. Best case is RZ plays a full season, Rizzo feels more assured, and deal gets done next fall. MicheleS – the Holliday / Werth comparison makes a lot of sense, good observation.

  8. natsfan1a - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    I also think that the piece is timely in light of what just happened in STL (and the comparison occurred to others as well as the issue was raised in some comments yesterday). Mark didn't say that it needs to happen now but rather that it's something to think about. btw, I'm fine with Mark deciding what to post about seeing as how he is the blog's host and all. ;-)

  9. Anonymous - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    My hope is that the Nats either build a winning club around Zim right now or they seroulsy conider trading him. Seriously. I love the guy, but the club has not been able to win with him (not his fault but a fact), he may have peaked (and he has not been some super star in MLB, he's been very good), he's less than reliable to date health-wise and do we really want to pay him huge money for the years AFTER his prime when he may be even more fragile or when he may not be a slick fielding .300BA/25/100 3B but merely a very nice 1B, though not an elite player at his position? (his arm might be jacked for the long haul and Rendon is in the wings).Maybe we will want to throw a bunch of money at Zim for a long term deal, but maybe a better move is to move him for some other pieces. Joey Votto, a more accomplished player arguably and a comparable guy on his club in terms of popularity may be moved. David Wright is said to be off-limits by Alderson, but he could certainly be moved, and he's virtually the same guy as Zim. Tex (twice), A-Rod, Griffey, all were traded, as were Soriano in his stellar 2B prime and then studs Jason Bay and Nate McClouth were traded from Pittsburgh when they were all the club had. You have to think that the Mets are kicking themselves for not moving Reyes when they could have in 2011 (a sandwich pick and a 3rd rounder?, ouch!). Zim's a great player but they simply cannot consider him a must-have guy. They have to consider what value he, and every other player, might have in trade. If hte Nats are out of it in July, they HAVE to be doing the due diligence to see what they could get by moving Zim and his remaining year of control. They are in the business of winning ball games not hiring guys for life for the Hell of it.

  10. gonatsgo - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Waiting makes sense on two fronts – the club really needs to see that Zim has not peaked and can play healthy for a full season — Zim needs to put up some quality numbers in order to ask for the high dollars. I think one of the reasons the club is not pursuing any of the big,( well, huge) ticket players is that they are keeping the Zim money tucked away safely. The timing has not been right yet. But then, Rizzo may not be especially good at the timing of these discussions – just ask Jim Riggleman. There is still some time to take care of this or to trade him. I have seen some other clubs – Cubs, for example get just weighed down by too many long-term deals that handcuff them.

  11. SCNatsFan - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    As above, I don't disagree with trading Zim next year IF Rendon shows he can play the position; you'd get a king's ransom for him and if the right deal came along it might make sense. That being said, I hope he signs an extension and stays; you can't blame the team losing on him and I have to believe that if he wants to be here that the franchise needs to do what I can to keep him here; its not like we have alot of home grown superstars at the moment, we shouldn't let this one go away.

  12. Section 222 - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    Nice piece, but I have to question this way of looking at the issue: "Given the choice, who would you rather give $180 million: Ryan Zimmerman or Prince Fielder? You better believe the Nationals will choose Zimmerman six days a week and twice on Sunday."Why do we have to choose? This is a serious question. The Lerners are RICHER than Luria (Marlins), richer than Moreno (Angels). The kind of dynasty the Nats could build with two 27 year old superstars will repay them many times over for the investment. We're talking maybe $40 million per year for the two of them. The Nats payroll currently isn't even in the top half of MLB payrolls. Why do we have to accept as fact the statement that "there's only so many 9 figure contracts you can give out" and the implication that the magic number there is 2?I thought one of the reasons they overpaid Werth was to convince other top free agents to come here. Now we're told that all we can do on the superstar front is re-sign Zim? Talk about bait and switch. If the magic number really is 2, then the decision to give one of them to Werth was truly monumentally stupid.I've never been in the "Lerners are cheap" camp. But I refuse to join the "there just isn't enough money to get the players we want" club. Once we have an annual payroll commensurate with the size of this market and the size of the Lerners' gigantic wallet I'll consider joining, but not before.

  13. Golfersal - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    Mark,Nice way of using your influence. Hopefully Rizzo and company are reading this with there morning coffee and will make this there top priority in the coming days. For everyone that says that there is two years left on the contract, bull. Get the big discount now, Nats will get Zimmerman a lot cheaper now than next winter or the winter before his final year.Everyone agrees we can't let Zimmerman slip away like the Cards let Pujols go.

  14. Anonymous - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    I agree that the potential trade of Zim has to be considered, if the 2012 Nats are out of it in July. His trade value would be huge mid-season 2012. FOF or not they need to treat the guy like he's movable.dfh21

  15. Feel Wood - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    There's an old joke that goes something like this.Guy: If I gave you a million dollars, would you sleep with me?Girl: Of course, but you don't have a million dollars.Guy: So if I gave you a hundred bucks, would you sleep with me?Girl: What do you think I am, some kind of hooker?Guy: We've already established that. Now we're just haggling over price.The Nationals and Zimmerman have already established that he'll get a long-term deal. Now they're just haggling over price. And the Lerners and Rizzo have already established that they are willing to spend big money (e.g. Werth) and that if a big money deal goes down to the deadline they will pay up rather than lose it (e.g. Strasburg, Harper). And in reference to the Cardinals-Pujols situation, there are two big differences. Pujols was seeking the biggest contract in baseball history, while Zimmerman's contract won't approach that. (Not in dollars, anyway. It might in years.) And the Cards ownership had money constraints, while the Lerners don't. They are the wealthiest owners in baseball, by far, and they haven't been overspending at all to this point. There is no chance that they won't have the money when they need it.This deal will get done. It's just a matter of time. There may already be a tentative agreement in place, and they're just waiting til the conditions are right to determine the specifics of money/years – such as giving Zim a chance to put up a big year in 2012 to maximize his value. Remember all the panic when spring training ended in 2009 and Zimmerman's first deal hadn't been consummated yet? That was supposed to be THE deadline, because of course nothing could get done during the season, and next year would be too late. Boswell was one of the leaders of the prophets of doom chorus. Then a few weeks into the season they announced the deal that had pretty much been in place all along.The moral of the story is this: Chill out, folks. Worry about more important stuff, like will it rain on opening day?

  16. Water23 - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    Section 222, You make a strong argument. Although the attendance numbers are not that large, I would think that signing another superstar would certianly improve that. There is the thought that signing Zimm to a big deal and then having Stras Zimmnn, Morse, Espi, Prince Oppo Boppo and one of the new draftees on the roster in 5 years may make it really tough on the Lerners. That payroll could be in the $120+ range. But one would think that if that happens the team is pretty successful/profitable.

  17. Rafael - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    So RZ will be what…29…30 by the time his current contract runs out? Yeah, I wouldn't give him a 10 year contract, but I would definitely give him something close to what Tulo from the Rockies got I think that's the benchmark. I believe it was a 6 year/$120 million extension, on top of the 6 yr/$31 million extension he got 2 years prior (so if my math is right, it's basically an 8 year deal worth $140 million).Also look at Braun's contract as well, similar number. That's what the Nats should go for, maybe slightly higher.

  18. JaneB - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    The second thing we said, when we heard about Albert (the first was WTF????) was, "Nats better sign Zimm NOW!" I actually believed Albert when he said he loved St. Louis, and wantedto play there, was invested in the community. Instead he took a few million more a year to move to glitzy market. He just went from iconicly honorable to the greedy, SECOND highest paid guy in baseball, and guarntees he'll be booed across the nation, like A-Rod is. Now I don't believe any of them care as much where they play as what the check says.It is not Ryan's fault he's been on a losing team. That's just a nutty comment. Pay him. Now or at the All-Star break. But they have to give him a Tulo deal, or better. He s=deserves it, and so do WE, frankly.

  19. joemktg - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    How much would the Cardinals have saved if they signed Albert to a long term deal a few years ago?Same logic: how much will the Nats save by signing Zim to a long term deal now vs. making the offer in 2013? What is the discounted future value of a 2013 Zim?

  20. Exposremains - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    I agree, sec 222

  21. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    So maybe the length is what they're stuck on, not money–Zimm's side wants 10 years, Rizzo (understandably) thinks Zimm won't still be playing when he's 40. Pudge is still playing at 40, but he was arguably overpaid at $3MM/year, nevermind $10MM, and he is in as good a condition as anybody in baseball, they say.Draft picks for Soriano seem to have worked out, but you don't want that here. Pay him or trade him, but don't mess this up.

  22. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    It wasn't just the money–as Mark points out, Miami apparently offered more–it's Hollywood, a sustainably big-budget team run by sane people, better uniforms, better weather (the smog is the reason they have such beautiful sunsets!), his family's preferences…

  23. Rafael - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    If he's got 2 years left on a contract, wouldn't it just make sense to give him an 8 year extension (so on paper it looks like a 10 year deal when you include his current contract)?

  24. Anonymous - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    Who cares? Zim is not, and the club is not, in a position to talk extension.

  25. Unkyd - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    Section222: Why do we have to choose?I'm still in favor of keeping our powder dry, for 1 more year. We have so many potential stars who we'll know so much more about, after this year, through time on the 25 man, and the AA-AAA…if we see that we can field an elite level team in '13, without Without going the 9 figger FA route, then a HUGE chunk of revenue will have been wasted this year, that we'll need 4-5 years down the road, to keep several elite homegrown fellas… Elite FAs and trades will be available over the course of the next year, and I won't fault the Learners for not spending their way into a $200,000.000 payroll, before they even know what's what, and who's who. Patience…

  26. Anonymous - Dec 9, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Not sure if I want to step into this discussion because Zimm is so well liked and is the face of the franchise. I like him too, great guy maybe the best 3rd baseman in BB today. To me there are really only 2 choices:1. Buy out the last two years of his contract and sign him to a 7 or maybe 8 year deal similar to Tulo or Braun 18 to 20 million a year. This will make him 34/35 at the end of the contract. The risk is his health.2. Shop him in July and see if there is a good trade and if not after the season offer him a 5 year contract around 16/18 million and try and buy out one of the years. If he does not take it trade him either at the beginning of the season or in July which ever seems more favorable to the team. I know this sounds terrible to all the Zimm fans but as a 3rd baseman he is easier to replace than a SS or a pitcher. Even if the National's payroll moves into the top third which is probably bigger than our market we just can't afford a 3rd baseman who is past his prime. Hopefully Strasburg and Zimmermann and Harper will develop like we all hope and each of them will be up in the 18 to 20 million dollar range and with Werth that would be 80% the teams payroll. Even upper mid-market teams cannot afford this many franchise players.

  27. Anonymous - Dec 9, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    "Zimmerman worth more than Fielder", as Mark Z asserts? I am not sure that's the case. Fielder doesn't have the injury history that Zimmerman has over their first 6 seasons in the majors. Fielder has averaged 160 games per season while Zim has averaged 137. Over those six full seasons, Fielder has a .282 batting average, 228 homers, 646 RBIs .390 OBP and .929 OPS. Zim has a batting average of .288, 128 homers, 498 RBIs, .355 OBP and .824 OPS. Zim plays a more difficult position and is a superior fielder but his poor throwing to first base is definitely a negative. If one assumes that Fielder's body is suddenly going to fall apart and Zimmerman is suddenly going to become injury free, then Mark Z is correct. Otherwise, I don't think so.

  28. Tcostant - Dec 9, 2011 at 3:09 PM

    Sec 3 actually hit on the point why you need to sign him now. Because if you wait t'til his FA year, you'll need to do a 7 to 10 year contract then, when he is two years older. I would over a 5 year extention for $100 right now, but together with the last two years on his contract that isn't to bad. I might even go a year or two more at $20M/year to get the deal done now.

  29. Steve M. - Dec 9, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Gonat nailed it in the first post. The Pujols situation behind the scene had soured long ago. Albert had his own market value in his mind and had been on a pay scale that was so below market it was time the Cardinals reciprocated, and they never did.The Brewers had a similar situation with Ryan Braun based on his performance on the previous contract. That is what Albert was looking for.The Dewitt's are shrewd 'businesspeople'. When they bought the Cardinals one of the aspects they liked in the deal was all the land holdings that came along with the team purchase and the first order of business would be a real estate 'flip' that would almost give them the franchise for FREE. The owners bought the team in 1995 for $150 million. The purchase price included the stadium (Old Busch), adjacent parking garages and various parcels of downtown land. The parking garages and some of the land were sold for $101 million, giving them a baseball team at a net cost of $49 million.The Dewitt's and partners made the accumulated much of their wealth in a bank flip. In a Sept. 3, 2004 St. Louis Post-Dispatch interview with Andrew Baur, it was said that Baur and Dewitt's family and other team owners were stockholders in Mississippi Valley Bancshares, which owned Southwest Bank in St. Louis. The bank was bought for $9.4 million in 1984 and was sold a few years ago for $502 million. In addition to Baur, Cardinal owners Fred Hanser and Donna DeWitt Lambert (sister of William DeWitt) were large stockholders in the company.Despite their wealth, the Cardinals' owners are not known for being generous. In 1997, the Cardinals fired the stadium's janitorial team after they refused to accept a wage cut. The Cardinals' management wanted to cut their pay from $9.70 an hour to $6.90 an hour. Some of the janitors worked for the Cardinals for more than 20 years. Eventually, an agreement was reached with the workers' union. This is how the agreement was reported in the April 20, 1997 edition of the Post:"The new agreement means the workers with the most seniority will take a pay cut of 50 cents an hour while all union members will lose health benefits they had under the previous contract."The Cardinals seem to be crying poor and the anger is pointed towards Pujols. In this case, the anger should be pointed straight at the Cardinals ownership.

  30. lefty1950 - Dec 9, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    The days of players staying with one franchise have been over for awhile. I was fortunate enough of growing as a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates (stop laughing, the time frame was from the mid 1950 – to 1980s) where I got to see Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Bill Mazeroski play their entire careers with Pittsburgh. With the kind of money being offered to these players now, I would not consider them selfish for wanting to make the most they can in the short amount of years they get play the game. Most players retire in their late 30s with over 50 years of life left to live. If you had a chance to make 5 to 10 times what you make now, dong the same work but in a different city, would you turn down the offer and be loyal to your company?I think the Nats should try to lock up Zim as quickly as they can, end of the year, beginning of next. I really like him as a player and would love to see him play his entire career here, but as we have seen over and over again, that would be the exception to the rule.

  31. The Fox - Dec 9, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    Steve M. that very interesting info.I think the Cardinals also postponed signing Pujols because they though they would have the advantage with both the Yankees and Boston out of the bidding. Only a team that could really eat the last few years of the contract would be able to sign him. When the Marlins came out of no where with an offer the Cardinals matched them. When the Angels made an offer the Cardinals did not want to get into a bidding war. I sure hope Pujols goes into the HOF as an Angel.

  32. blovy8 - Dec 9, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    If he doesn't to give the Nats a reasonable price and contract length, I don't think it's the end of the world to let him walk. Longoria signed a really cheap deal with the Rays, for instance. This face of the franchise stuff cuts both ways, and he would have to take the chance of not getting the same money from any other team unless the demands of the market change pretty dramatically. Beltre money is about what he could expect, and I think the Nats will offer that. It also may be that Rendon is good enough to replace him and you have a chance to get what you need in a trade, so there will be leverage in a year, who knows? If Zimmerman doesn't establish a little more durability, you can argue that an extension for Strasburg will be more important down the road.

  33. Ray - Dec 9, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Thank you for this piece Mark. Anyone who thinks this is untimely hasn't been paying attention. A big reason Pujols left St. Louis, people say, is because he was angry that they didn't step up years ago and let him get to the free agency point. I think signing Zimmerman is imparative for the long term success of the team. Aramis Ramirez turned down $16 mil because he felt that as an okay-fielding, power hitting 3B he could get a higher long term deal if he walked. That should give a good idea about the value of a all-star caliber third baseman. A player like Zimmerman comes along rarely, and the Nats are lucky to have him. And that doesn't even get into the face of the franchise considerations. Sign him up long term now.

  34. Anonymous - Dec 9, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Zuckerman is way too much of a homer — Fielder is a far more impactive MLB player than Zimmerman, and it is not a close call. And the idea that the Nats are laying back now to save their money for when Zim's extension is in play is ridiculous. The Nats already have by far the lowest payroll in the NL East. They could sign Fielder for $22 Million per and not catch the Braves, much less the Marlins, Mets or Phils in payroll. Is Mark actually agreeing that the Lerners are cheap, becasue he just pretty much said so.

  35. PAY TO PLAY - Dec 9, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Owners deserve to make a profit and run the team as a business but there are times that you also have to reward your fanbase. The Cardinals didn't do that and the anger is pointed at Albert as being greedy and maybe the anger should be towards ownership. Albert played out his past contract and publicly never complained that he signed a bad deal in his previous deal and of course it is only a bad deal in hindsight because he far exceeded all expectations and 2 World Series rings under that contract. He expected years ago the Cardinals would re-do his contract like the Brewers did for Braun. Now we know that will never happen.The Nats have a completely different situation with Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman is over-paid from a standpoint of dollars per at-bat. Still, for the goodwill Zimmerman has brought to this franchise, why not over-pay him and just get it done as a cost of doing business. If the Nats gave him slightly more than Jayson Werth's deal with some incentives for playing in at least 150 games a year both sides should make out well in a new deal.Since we don't know what transpires behind closed doors, maybe Rizzo has presented a deal to Ryan. It would be nice to know the FoF is under a long-term deal. It also then creates a path for Rendon to move to another position.

  36. Will - Dec 9, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Lock Zimmerman up long term. Sign Carlos Beltran to 2 years for $28mil.Opening Day OF: LF-Morse, CF-Werth, RF-BeltranRotate Werth and Beltran occasionally. Both are former CFs, who are a bit too old to play there these days, but both shouldn't be awful there.Use Beltran as a lead off hitter. He's got a career .361 OBP, and can still hit for considerable power.Suddenly, the CF and lead off problems have disappeared!Rest Beltran frequently and play Bernadina and/or Ankiel in his place, to ensure Beltran holds up over the course of the year.Trade, release or bench LaRoche in July, depending on his value. Move Morse back to 1B, promote Harper, and play with a Beltran-Werth-Harper OF.Sit back and watch as the Nationals make a push for the 2nd WC in 2012, and win the division in 2013.1. Beltran RF2. Espinosa 2B3. Zimmerman 3B4. Morse LF/1B5. Werth CF6. LaRoche 1B7. Ramos C8. Desmond SSThat's a pretty friggin formidable line up!

  37. Will - Dec 9, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Maybe I was even being overzealous with what it will take to sign Beltran. Some have suggested even just 2 years/$20mil will be enough.

  38. Wally - Dec 9, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    This is one of the rare situations where I take some of the respective statements at face value: I think Zim's side wants to engage now in extension talks, and the team wants to wait. These contracts rarely look like good deals by the end of them, so why would a team want to rush into a very long term commitment if they don't feel pressure to? Jeter, maybe Manny and the first ARod contract seemed to work out ok. I am sure that there are more, but I bet the ratio is 3:1 negative. But waiting only offers downside to Zim (by the way, I think Zim loses half his value with a move to 1B, and both sides know it and will avoid it as long as possible): he has shown the level of player he is, and at 27, he isn't going to establish a new level. But he could get hurt; Rendon could show that he could provide 97% of Zim's value at a fraction of the cost, allowing them to trade him for other parts. Or the excitement that we feel right now could also seriously regress, making the Nats look another 2-3 years away from contention. At that point, trading Zim for 3-4 prospects may be the right thing to do. I think that the team would love to wait another year without getting Zim or us fans upset at them. I think that the Cards are secretly relieved that they lost Pujols and did so in a way where there fans are siding more with them than Pujols.To me, the real contract opportunity this offseason is not with Zim but several other key young guys. Morse, JZimm, Espy and Ramos: none of those guys has made much money (relatively speaking) and would probably highly value financial security. They would likely offer 1 or 2 team options at favorable terms in return for some security through their arb years (like Longoria). If those guys progress to where we think they will go, that could be real money saved for the team, allowing us to sign the Fielders of the world, but you have to do it while they still value that security. Let them make a few million and I think that they opportunity is gone. If you gave Morse a 2 yr, $12m contract ($4m + $8m thru his remaining arb years), would he also agree to team options for his first two FA years at $12m and $15m? How about JZimm: 3/$16m + two team options at $12m and $15m? You would have Morse controlled at reasonable prices through his age 33 season (if you exercise his options), but he also gets a guaranteed $12m even if he gets hurt (or regresses). JZimm would be locked up thru his age 30 season, in return for financial security for life. Espy and Ramos present similar opportunities, although they have accomplished less and are further away from FA.I would start there, if I am Rizzo. I would do the same for Stras, but I don't see him going for it. He either gets hurt, or is on the Lincecum path. He also got such a big contract out of college, that the idea of financial security may no longer be a concern for him. Will – like the idea. I would sign Fielder first, but if they don't go that way, Beltran for 2 years is next on my list. You need to get an Ankiel or someone like that in case of injury or fatigue, though.

  39. Wally - Dec 9, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Sheesh – just saw that the Rays locked up Matt Moore exactly like I just wrote. I should just have waited and posted a link, saying 'Do this'. Could have saved some muscle wear and tear!

  40. Wally - Dec 9, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Switching to the bench, I see that the non tender date is coming up soon, and there could be some bench guys that make sense for us. We have mentioned Schumaker from the Cards, I would also add Theriot as a MI with some hit skills. Maybe Luke Scott too. Always a few surprises.In the FA market, I think that Ross could be a good bench guy, maybe Wilson Betemit.

  41. NatsLady - Dec 9, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    I'll weigh in here: You couldn't ask for a better FotF that RZim. He does the interviews, he says the right thing when his manager quits on him, he's there day-in-and-day-out training (him and Lombo there to greet Ramos after his ordeal). There was a note on Pudge's leaving that he (Pudge) contributed to a "serene clubhouse." A lot can be said for that. Consider your own work environment, people! It's not only how well Zimm plays, how much does he contribute to other players' games???It wouldn't take a lot for Rizzo–or whoever is buds with RZ–to tell him how much he is appreciated by fans and management, and that whenever he and his agent are ready, negotiations will ensue. "If you want to wait a year and see if you put up big numbers, we'll go with that, we have the $$, but you will also be a year older."On the other hand, "If you want to deal now, it might be less $$, but we'll give you an extra year and job security." That costs nothing, but there isn't a person alive who doesn't want to hear it. Reyes was miffed that the Mets didn't even TRY, and the Marlins were at his hotel door at 12:01 a.m. I may get ripped for considering the "intangibles," but the intangibles brought down the Red Sox…So, throw the decision back to Zimm. Although it's not the most urgent problem, don't assume. Never assume.To the poster who's worried about Strasburg's extension. ROFL!!!!! That kid (who won't be a kid much longer) is going back to SoCal when his time is up. And Harper's going to NY where his heart is. Enjoy 'em while we got 'em and get busy developing more.

  42. John C. - Dec 9, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    People who are eager to move Zimmerman to first base amuse me. Zimmerman is a legit gold glove defender – for once the sabre types are in full agreement with the award. He slipped a bit last year because he identified a weakness in his game (he tended to throw sidearm even when he didn't need to, and occasionally the ball would run on him) and reworked his game to correct that problem. Yes, it looked fugly at first. Remember, he was essentially reprogramming muscle memory. But it got much, much better as the season went on.And this is what the truly great ones do – they constantly challenge themselves to improve their game. Remember in 2003-2004 when Tiger Woods essentially reconstructed his golf swing? People thought he was insane to mess with success. But he knew there was a problem, and when he worked out the mechanics he completely dominated golf from 2005-2007. I'm not saying Zimmerman's going to win the Masters, but I will say I'm not that worried about his throws. As for the comparison to Fielder, no one would say that Zimmerman is the offensive threat that Fielder is. But Zimmerman's all-around game and impact on the team is a much closer question. Both players first came up in 2005; since that time Fielder has accumulated a very impressive 19.5 bWAR and 23.4 fWAR. Zimmerman? 19.8 bWAR and 30.2 fWAR. The differences are because of Zimmerman's defensive abilities and baserunning skills, as well as the fact that it's harder to find his kind of offensive production in a third baseman than in a first baseman. Fans dig the long ball, but at baseball Zim may well be the equal or even the superior of Fielder in the long run.

  43. Rabbit - Dec 9, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    It hasn't been suggested that there is a "lack of desire to keep this marriage together"? Don't believe it. MONEY TALKS. Zimm will go where the money is. Forget this pie in the sky bit about desires to keep a marriage together. That is so bogus. It's all money folks and only money. You're living in Disney World if you believe different. I predict Zimm is going, going, gone. Wait and see.

  44. John C. - Dec 9, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    Rabbit, by all accounts C.J. Wilson took less money to go to the Angels than he could have made from the Marlins. Pujols gave the Cards a significant "home town discount" on his first FA contract (that's allegedly one reason he went for the $$ this time). Texeira took less money to play in NY than he was offered in DC. Wang settled up quickly with the Nationals instead of looking on the open market.Sometimes it's not all money and only money. Money does talk, but while it usually has the final say that is not always true.

  45. MicheleS - Dec 9, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    Rabbit.. I also think No Trade Clauses had an impact on both Pujols/CJ not going to the Marlins. Plus.. CJ is from SoCal.. he used to take training runs from his JR College to the Angels stadium…and Both were offered More Money from the Marlins (plus the fact that there is no state tax in FL and there is an UNGODLY state tax in CA – I think something like 9%).. so it's money with a few other things involved as well…

  46. MicheleS - Dec 9, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    Oh and anyone that wants us to go after David Wright.. I spoke with a Mets fan and they would GLADLY Dump him. Range is down, more injuries than Zimm, and Citi Field neutered him – it's in his head. So when your most die hard Mets fan(and this one is a crazy mets fan) would trade away what's left of the young core, that's a warning sign.

  47. sm13 - Dec 9, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    I believe there is a sense of urgency to sign Ryan. Players like him deserve respect from their ballclub and deserve to take offense when none is shown. Sign him now and you get good value for a long-term star. Wait and someone else will swoop in and take advantage of a damaged relationship. That is the fable called "Albert " that we all just saw play out.

  48. blovy8 - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    Natslady – Zimmerman's production isn't as hard to replace as Strasburg, since Rendon is depth there, if things develop as they should in two years. A lot of his value in the past has come from defense, if he has to play 1st, he's worth a lot less. There is no pitcher like Strasburg coming any time soon for the Nats in the draft, since they will be picking lower and have to pay slot. Free agents to be of that caliber cost too much in prospects to acquire and are generally older and you pay a lot more for less value. The Nats can't even outbid the Marlins for a #2 pitcher, you think they can get an ace when NY, Bos, etc. are involved?

  49. Big Cat - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    With Zim's work ethic, I look for him to come into camp early in the best shape of his life.I just picked up the book The Last Boy by Jane Leavy. About Mickey Mantle. Anybody out there read it?

  50. Will - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Can Wright play great 1b defense. If so I'd take a flier on him. Zimmerman was always the better defender but Wright has always had a good bat, thought perhaps he's never lived up to the NY media's expectations.The Nats have a lot of room to improve their offense, especially with flexibility and holes at the power positions- Lf Rf and 1b. There's lots of room to upgrade these spots. We have Morse long term who can play Lf or 1b, and Werth should stay at Rf but can be shifted to CF if necessary. The beauty of having a hole at 1B is that anyone can play it. It's the least defensively demanding position so anyone, even a 300+ lb fielder, can stick there.With that said Beltran is still our best option. He won't cost players in a trade, and because of a general lack of interest his value has plummeted. He could arguably worth $20mil just in his first season as he was worth almost 5 WAR. last year alone.He also answers our leadoff and outfield problems.

  51. blovy8 - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    sm13, I think the issue is going to be is he worth more than Werth money as the FOTF, and is it the best time to ask? An all-star quality year this year, and sure, he is that guy, if it's similar to the last year, then I think they'll be wary of a long contract for a guy that might break down too much and have to move to 1st because of throwing problems.

  52. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    Big Cat….. yes. Be preparded to feel really sad.

  53. NatsLady - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:16 PM

    blovy8 — I think we are saying the same thing re: Strasburg. He is NOT going to sign an extension with us. I hope he'll be a great pitcher and the Nats will have some of his great years. End of story.

  54. NatsLady - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    Big Cat — yes, I read it. Interesting insights, enjoyed it. No illusions, though.

  55. The Fox - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    Here is a 9 minute interview with C.J. Wilson where he explains everything that went through his head in making the decision on signing with the Angels. This is probably the most honest interview I've seen by a players on how he made his decision.If the link does not work search C.J. Wilson interview. http://search.espn.go.com/s/overlay/videoOverlay?searchString=c.j.-wilson-interview&dims=6

  56. natsfan1a - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    Spring dreamer alert: tentative ST schedule is now on the team site.

  57. Anonymous - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    I think that signing Prince Fielder would be huge for this franchise. Let's not underestimate what signing one of the few African American superstars in the game would do for fan interest in the DC Metro area. Prince is a rare commodity, and he is one of the most likable personalities in the sport. Zimmerman is a great player, too, but isn't as public or dynamic a persona and does not connect with the folks in DC on the same levels Prince would.

  58. NatsLady - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    And I disagree that we can't find and develop Aces and Stars. Pujols himself is the BEST evidence that there is gold in them there hills. Harper being on the cover of SI at 16 is great, and by some unfortunate/fortunate miracle, we got him in the draft, and it was obvious.But for the long term, since we don't WANT to be a 103-loss team, we have to get spotters and scouts out there, coaches out there, trainers, etc. Read every small-town newspaper, and every big-town HS sport section.Get good minor league affiliates with decent parks, staff them with smart managers and coaches to develop the kids…Leg work and brain work. To me, the scouting and the farm system are the key to on-going success, not splashy FA signings.That said, if the price is right on P. Fielder, go for it, because we sure could use some offense.

  59. Wally - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    I see almost no chance that Harper extends with us. It is one of the reasons that I think that we should let him be as ready as possible before starting his clock.I think it is something higher than that, but still pretty low, that Stras does. They are such different personalities. Stras might, if offered market value, feel some benefit to staying within his comfort zone. Harper wants to be the biggest fish in the biggest pond.

  60. NatsLady - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    I'm in the Fielder camp. If the Marlins can target the Latino fans, why should we be shy about going for the African-American fans? Agree, Fielder is personable with the oh-so-cute kid he had at the All-Star game…

  61. NatsLady - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    If Stras moved here, and had kids here in school, that might (MIGHT) work in the long term, but I agree 100% about Harper. That kid wants to be the center of attention in the center of centers.

  62. Section 222 - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:37 PM

    Lefty 1950 — I grew up a Pirates fan too — Have a great photo of a very young Roberto on my office wall. One time when I was about 8, I sat in the right field bleachers behind the metal fence in order to be close to him and was greatly disappointed that he didn't play that day — until he came up in the bottom of the 9th and led off the inning with a pinch hit homerun, keying a 3 run Pirate rally and won the game. "We had 'em allllll the way!"

  63. Wally - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    On Fielder, I didn't start the offseason wanting him, but I have come around to thinking it is a good idea. Here is how I think about it: it is realistic to see the Nats having a 'window' of contention within the next 3-5 years. Maybe they can extend it, but they know that they have the following: Zim for two years, Stras for 4 years (is it 5?), JZimm for 3 years, Espy/Ramos for 5 years, Werth for 5 years. Those are key players under team control for 2-5 years, with the possibility of extending the shorter term ones. Plus, with the exception of Werth, those guys will all be within their peak years during that time, and several of them will be playing at relatively cheap salaries. Add to that a promising group of prospects. That is a promising future.While not a position of need, Fielder is a premier hitter entering his prime. His last 5 years: 2 years over 1.000 OPS, another just under (.980) and two 'off' years at .880. Even those worried about his body type and decline probably don't see it as a real risk until his early 30's, which means that it is reasonable to think that he will be an elite player during our known window. I wouldn't go for him at any cost or length, but I think that it is a good risk to take and I would certainly be in the market. 10 years? Probably a non starter. 5 years? A no-brainer. In between? Well, it depends on the specifics.

  64. blovy8 - Dec 9, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    The interesting thing about Fielder is he cut down his strikeouts last year, so he could actually hit for a pretty decent average. I just don't think the Nats can match up with his demands the way an AL team can. The years just aren't going to be there for him, unless Rizzo throws that "athletic" template out the window. I really hope the Nats can get a better contact hitter in that outfield; there just seemed to be a lot of strikeouts in at bats where a ball in play would have scored a run or at least moved a guy to third last year. A guy like Desmond can't be striking out four times more than he walks and waste all those outs he'll make leading off.

  65. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 9, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    On the other hand, if they had a time machine, they don't have to settle for Fielder–they could get Lou Gehrig! And Josh Gibson! All it costs is the research funding, and gaping hole in the fabric of space-time!

  66. blovy8 - Dec 9, 2011 at 7:16 PM

    Yeah, there's all the more reason to rig the service time clock on Harper so you do get him that extra year if you pretty much know he's gone when he can go. The team isn't a World Series contender this year, but that year down the road we might be. If the Nats can be in playoff contention in the 2013-6 window, it might change a few free agents' perception of where their best fit might be.I'd settle for all those guys the Expos traded away, Sec. 3, maybe the Lerners would save on electricity for that machine then, too…

  67. baseballswami - Dec 9, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    I know the whole idea is supposed to be win, win , win – get in the playoffs, win the world series. But I also want players that I love watching day after day, win or lose. I LOVE watching Ryan Zimmerman play – and he is a fantastic defender – makes plays no one else can. He has had some throwing issues, especially after the surgery, but has worked very hard to clean it up. I would watch him play defense and hit any day of the week. It's a thing of beauty. During any given game, you know he can take your breath away. He can make an impossible play or do his walk-off thing – you always know it can happen any time – magic.

  68. sjm308 - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    My thoughts on Fielder have actually changed. I thought at first it was one position where we did not need to add but looking at his numbers, he would be a huge addition to the lineup and I am now in the camp of hoping it happens. Not going to jump off a bride if it doesn't but he would be a huge piece to an offense that needs pieces.I also like the many aspects of how to handle RZimm. I used to think it would be impossible to let him go but now I can actually see both sides. I would like to see him signed before this season ends but I understand why both he and the team would wait. If I was the Lerners, I would offer that extention NOW and do it publicly to see how he handles that.I think I am going to promote Will to associate GM as several of his ideas are outside the box but make great sense.Go Nats

  69. Feel Wood - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    I just picked up the book The Last Boy by Jane Leavy. About Mickey Mantle. Anybody out there read it?Yes.[spoiler alert]Mantle hit on Jane Leavy when she went to interview him. Although maybe that's not really a spoiler….

  70. Exposremains - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:50 PM

    If the Nats don't have the money to sign Fielder because of Zim, why should we hope they will try to get Darvish. He will cost 100M+. Its easy to bid, if you know you'll lose anyway.

  71. natsfan1a - Dec 9, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    We could also bring back Ron Santo so he could attend his Hall of Fame induction.Sec 3, My Sofa said… On the other hand, if they had a time machine, they don't have to settle for Fielder–they could get Lou Gehrig! And Josh Gibson! All it costs is the research funding, and gaping hole in the fabric of space-time! December 9, 2011 2:04 PM

  72. MicheleS - Dec 9, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    1AAMEN to bringing Ron Santo back!

  73. John C. - Dec 9, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    Apparently the Nats have traded Colin Balester to Detroit for RHRP Ryan Perry.Both are young, throw hard, and are wild. Perry is younger and I think (if I'm reading the criteria correctly) has one more minor league option than Balestar. While I have some hope that McCatty can help Perry (former #1 draft pick) reach his potential, this feels like a mutual change-of-scenery trade. In other words, not much to see here, move along.

  74. Anonymous - Dec 10, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    Major point here: Pujols is well over 30 perhaps older. Zimmerman is still in his mid-twenties. He has yet to even reach his prime. He is a gold glove starter at third and until last year was one of the top 3 franchise players Fangraph's charts.Yes you sign him now and don't wait Rizzo. You won't find anyone in free agency this good or this valuable.. Texiera sure wasn't. If you consider Zim's fielding prowess its why he is normally ranked up there with Pujols and ahead of Fielder. I am dead certain he could play third, second, first and even shortstop if you asked him. He isn't JUST the face of the franchise he is the prototypical Nationals player. The very guy Rizzo wants nine of. So, what are you waiting for sign the guy so that you can figure out what to do with Rendon et al? Its contradictory for Rizzo not to sign Zimmerman at this point and right now.

  75. Avar - Dec 12, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    Quick little econ 101 lesson here. The wealth of the Lerners is completely irrelevant for how much they can pay free agents. No one who gets that kind of money is dumb enough to subsidize a business with their own money. They will use what the Nationals earn to pay the Nationals' salaries.It always make me shake my head when people think the Lerners are rich so they should overpay everyone. Especially fans in this town where we have watched an owner overpay everyone for 12 years. How has that worked out for the Skins?No one has unlimited money and the Nationals are not a top tier team financially. They are second tier so have to choose very carefully how to dole out the high end contracts.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 56 44 --
ATLANTA 55 48 2.5
MIAMI 49 53 8.0
NEW YORK 49 54 8.5
PHILADELPHIA 45 58 12.5
Through Friday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
SAT: Nats at Reds, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
MON: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter