Zimmerman gave himself two options this offseason — return or step away — and he is ready to put that process on repeat.
“Everybody said how bad of a negotiator I was,” Zimmerman noted Tuesday, referring to comments he made about playing for the Nationals or playing golf. “But at this point of my career, there really is nothing to negotiate.
“It’s not about money anymore,” he added, and that makes a ton of sense, too. He made $100 million across a six-year contract and is aware of his market value as an older, often-hurt first baseman. He then brought that self-awareness into his first contract discussions since 2012. “It’s about playing another year, and being with this group of guys, and being part of a really good team," he said. "It’s exciting to have a chance to do something special again.”
Zimmerman never doubted that he and the Nationals would strike a deal. He explained that if it seemed to take a while it’s because Washington had more important matters to worry about. Before bringing back Zimmerman, the Nationals built their infield by signing Starlin Castro and Eric Thames and re-signing Howie Kendrick and Asdrúbal Cabrera. Those five players — Zimmerman, Castro, Thames, Kendrick and Cabrera — are expected to cycle through three infield positions and help keep one another fresh.
Zimmerman, Kendrick and Thames will rotate at first, and Zimmerman projected roughly 250 to 300 at-bats this season. He had only 190 plate appearances last season because he was plagued by plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The last time he played close to a full year was 2017, and he has done so only twice since 2013. Having Thames, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, and Kendrick, a utility player the Nationals want in the lineup, should work out well for Zimmerman.
The Nationals have long maintained that Zimmerman still produces when healthy. That showed in flashes during the postseason run this past fall, when he hit a key home run in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, then another in Game 1 against the Houston Astros in the World Series. And now comes another chance to prove himself.
“It’s just human nature to prepare to play every day,” Zimmerman said. “But that’s not in the plan, or where I’m at in my career anymore, which I’m okay with.”
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