After extending the deadline to make a new deal, Ryan Zimmerman was given an extension from the Washington Nationals and much has been made of the monstrous six-year $100 million extension given to the superstar third baseman. The deal comes with a $24 million club option for a seventh season that will- if the Nats are smart- not be exercised.
The first thing to do is to look at how the projection systems value Ryan Zimmerman going into the 2012 season. The 37 fans on FanGraphs who have submitted a projection for Zim believe that the 27-year-old is worth 5.9 WAR and grade him as a top defensive player (+7 projected UZR).
Using the Simple War Calculator crafted by Lewie Pollis, we see that both Bill James and RotoChamp value Ryan Zimmerman as a 5.5 WAR and 5.2 WAR player respectively. Baseball Info Solution is higher on Zimmerman as a hitter, as they project him to have a wRC+ of 135, as opposed to a projected wRC+ of 131 by RotoChamp.
The best projection system available on FanGraphs is ZiPS, and it is by far the most scientific one available at this moment. However, ZiPS is more critical of Ryan Zimmerman than the other two projection systems, as they value him as a 5.1 WAR player. Two seasons ago, Zimmerman was worth 7.2 WAR after coming off of a 7.3 WAR season in 2009. He was not healthy last season, but it is not fair to say that he is an injury risk right now. However, he is also not a lock to play 150 games; nobody is anyway.
A simple Marcel system using the last three years of data has him as a 4.9 WAR player, and the reason for this lower rating is due to last season’s aberration. He was worth just 2.5 WAR and played in just 101 games with disappointing play in the field and at the dish (119 wRC+). Ryan Zimmerman will definitely bounce back from those numbers, and his baseline value is a 5 WAR player with his logical peak value at 6 WAR (overall peak value at 7.5 WAR).
It is extremely difficult to find this sort of production from a third baseman, which means that what the Nationals star is doing is quite incredible to say the least. He hits, fields, and has some value as a baserunner. More importantly, Ryan Zimmerman is literally the cornerstone of this franchise and the face of an improving, young team. He is a leader for this ballclub, so locking him up was extremely important for this franchise. His meaning to the Nationals means that this deal must be taken in that context.
There wasn’t much of a hometown discount for Ryan Zimmerman as usual, even though most players who get extended or re-sign with their teams receive less money than usual. However, this is a superstar and those players never get discounts; especially if they are the face of the franchise. When was the last time Derek Jeter made less than market value?
In any case, Zim is making $16.7 million per year and will be able to surpass that amount for at least the first three years of his contract. He should be worth about 5.5 WAR per season until he is 30, so he will be worth about 16 WAR over the first three seasons of this contract. After his age 30 season, it is reasonable to expect a decline in ability and two 4 WAR seasons followed by a 2 WAR year (10 WAR in total). This means that Ryan Zimmerman will be worth about 25 WAR (an extra win shaved off due to injury/risk) over the course of this deal or 4.5 WAR per year.
If one win equates to about $4.5 million, (will increase due to inflation, but I believe in using lower totals) then he will be worth about $112.5 million. Contrary to popular belief, the Washington Nationals were smart to give Ryan Zimmerman this contract and actually received the better end of the deal in terms of market value.
Superstar third basemen are a rare commodity in the MLB, so if you can find one who is relatively young and is a leader for your ballclub, then you have to lock him up. Ryan Zimmerman is unquestionably this team’s best player and offers so much to the Washington Nationals. This deal was the obvious one for the Nats, and they will reap the awards accordingly. Just because this isn’t a bona fide starting pitcher making the money, doesn’t mean that this is automatically a poor deal. Zimmerman isn’t as big of a household name as some of the other elite players as he is, but Zim is definitely just as good as him. Hate on this signing at your peril, because this was one of the good moves the Nationals made this offseason, unlike the Gio Gonzalez trade.
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