A DC Icon in the Making

Ryan Zimmerman and the Washington Nationals agreed to a contract yesterday that fits Zimmerman in a Nationals (or Natinals) jersey for the next half-decade at a minimum. The five-year, $45-million contract buys out all three of Zimmerman’s arbitration years plus two seasons that were to be under market control. Because of our 40/60/80 rubric for arbitration value, that gives us 3.8 equivalent free agent years covered under this contract.

At $45 million over 3.8 years, the Nationals are paying Zimmerman the equivalent of just under $12 million per market year. Using current market rates per win (around $4.25 to $4.5 million per win), the Nationals are paying for about a 2.75-win player. Does Zimmerman project to live up to or exceed that mark?

Zimmerman has seen his offense decline over the past three seasons, but only be slight amounts and given that offense as a whole dove last year and was down in 2007 compared to 2006 as well, he still looks fine. In fact, Ryan Zimmerman has actually maintained a relatively stable wOBA compared to the league, around 5% above average. Interestingly enough, a majority of the projection systems predict a substantial rise in Zim’s wOBA this year, with an average coming in around the .360 mark which would be a full season career high and put Zimmerman around the 15 run above average mark.

Fielding wise, Ryan Zimmerman’s numbers outside of 2007 show that of a consistently slightly above average player. He flipped out according to UZR in 2007, but given the stability in each other year, that looks like a fluke. Still, it shows what he is capable of, and I am comfortable penciling him in as an average fielder at about five runs over average for the duration of this contract. Toss in the 3B positional adjustment and the replacement level bonus and Zimmerman projects out to a touch over four wins on average.

Given that he’s averaged 3.8 over the prior three seasons, this seems like no stretch at all. Really, this is a huge win for the Nats both on getting value on Zimmerman and in keeping him in DC where they can hopefully use him to help establish an identity for the franchise.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

15 Responses to “A DC Icon in the Making”

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  1. Kevin S. says:

    I’ve seen it mentioned all over the site… but what is the 40/60/80 rubric?

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    • LukeW says:

      I’m curious too. I’d also like a little more info on the Super 2 rules, in particular regard to Weiters and David Price.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      I believe it is the arbitration payment standard. Players in their first year of arb will generally get 40% of their fair market value, players in their second year will generally get 60% of their fair market value and so on.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        So, if a player’s listed as worth $10 million/year, a “neutral” contract would pay out $4 million in the first arb year, $6 million in the second, and $8 million in the third, with major deviations causing it to favor either the player or the team?

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  2. vivaelpujols says:

    It’s always nice to see generally crappy run teams make good moves, like the Royals with the Grienke extension.

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  3. Ken says:

    The thing is, the Nats are basically paying him what the Mets pay Wright. Anyone think they are in the same league?

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    • Will says:

      I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison, because the Mets got a steal. I think there’s been a noticeable shift in teams’ value of youth in just the past year or two.
      Markakis and Youkilis’ extensions are both more expensive, and they’re both comparable to Zimmerman. (Did you know Youk and Zimm have the same exact WAR since 2006?)

      Also, the Nats have to pay a premium to keep any players, because they’re a really bad team. Just look at the Teixeira negotiations, they offered substantially more money, but couldn’t beat the allure of playing for the Yankees. So if it takes $1mil/year extra, so be it. It will do more benefit than harm in the long run.

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      • Ken says:

        The Mets may have gotten a bit of steal, but players don’t usually get paid market value for their arbitration years (see Cole Hamels). Zimmerman feels like a big overpay when you consider that.

        I think you might be right about the Nats needing to pay a touch more than other teams, especially since the opportunity for endorsements is much less in DC, but Teixeira isn’t the right example. I’m pretty sure the Nats offered a full $20 million less than the Yanks for the same number of years.

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  4. Vince says:

    Average MLB salary 2009: $3.26 million
    Zim’s career OPS+ = 110
    $ 3.26 x 110 = $ 3.586 million

    Even allowing for his above average (but not spectacular) glove work, the Nats WAAAAAAY overpaid for Zimmerman.

    The real problem is that Zim looks like a talent when he’s compared to the other bums on the Nats team.

    Unfortunately, merging the Nats and Orioles would STILL NOT result in a .500-level team…because there’s probably only about 5 MLB quality pitchers even on the merged team!

    Spend money on pitching Nats! Why didn’t you get some free agent pitchers in the off season?!?!

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  5. Jim says:

    “Average MLB salary 2009: $3.26 million
    Zim’s career OPS+ = 110
    $ 3.26 x 110 = $ 3.586 million”

    Errr….what exactly does multipling average salary by OPS+ prove again?

    And the Nats got at least one free agent pitcher(Daniel Cabrera, non-tendered by regional rivals the Orioles last December) and traded for another(Scott Olsen). And it didn’t cost them very much(some cash, Emilio Bonifacio, and some other so-so prospects, and they also got Josh Willingham in the Olsen trade.)

    They’ll probably get about what they paid for Olsen and Cabrera, though(which is not much.)

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  6. david says:

    Not spectacular glove work? he has the most range of any 3B.

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