Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus accepted Houston’s qualifying offer Thursday, becoming the first major leaguer to do so. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters and Dodgers starter Brett Anderson accepted Friday.
For Desmond and Zimmermann, the moves are the next step in a progression toward parting that began when the Nationals tried and failed to sign both home-grown players to long-term extensions in recent offseasons. Desmond rejected a five-year, $89.5 million extension two years ago. Zimmermann rejected a five-year, $105 million extension last winter. After down seasons, both players seem likely to get comparable offers as they hit free agency.
With Desmond and Zimmermann now off the books, joining Denard Span and Doug Fister as other impact players hitting the market, the Nationals have just less than $93 million in contract obligations for 2016, not counting the substantial amount of money they’ll dole out to arbitration-eligible players like Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon.
The Nationals should find themselves with around $50 million less in payroll than they had on opening day in 2015, money they can reinvest in a fairly deep free agent market, or save for someone like Strasburg, who hits free agency after the 2016 season.