There has been a great deal of discussion recently regarding when the Nationals will offer Ryan Zimmerman an extension. Of course, it isn’t inevitable that they will do that at all. And an extension isn’t the only possibility to keep him – he’s signed through 2013, but they could rip that up and sign him to a 6 year deal right now (rather than a 5 or 6 year extension on the end) as suggested here. But I don’t want to get into the minutia of how, when or how long here. I just want to talk about why they should do it, in a few simple points.

He is a truly great hitter for his position, and while there are some questions about his throwing, it is pretty unanimous that he is one of the best fielding (pre-throw) players in the league right now. It puts him among the best players in the game. Here just a few points highlighting that:

  • Last year, despite injuries and a poor start, after July 2 he hit .314/.373/.472 and played in all but 1 game. That .846 OPS rated only behind Pablo Sandoval and Aramis Ramirez among NL third basemen. His full season mark of .798 ranked only behind those two and Chipper Jones
  • His 2010 season should have been in the MVP discussion, even if he didn’t get the votes. His OPS+ of 143 ranked 7th, behind only outfielders and first baseman, while he played stellar third base
  • According to Fangraphs, his 2010 WAR of 7.2 put him 6th in the majors, 3rd in the NL, behind Josh Hamilton, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, Albert Pujols and Joey Votto. That’s it, those were the players better than him
  • In 6 seasons, plus a small part of a 7th when he debuted, he’s hit .288/.355/.479
  • He’s been the best player in this team’s history, in terms of WAR, is a local guy and a fan favorite. While that shouldn’t color the discussion too much, he certainly should be thought of better than the exact same player (if he existed) that doesn’t play here
  • All this and he is only about to enter his age 27 season, which means a 6 year extension now puts them through age 32, or 34 if they extend him 6 beyond his current deal. Neither should frighten them from an aging standpoint
All of these points lead us to the conclusion that he is one of the best overall players in the game today. He’s a top tier hitter, and although he’s not in the small group of the very best, his great defense adds a dimension that almost all of the better hitters don’t, or can’t (because of their position) add themselves. With all that,  it certainly seems like a no brainer to lock him up.
But there are some issues, and next I’ll talk about the case against extending the ZMan’s contract.

By Charlie