WASHINGTON — Now that he’s set to play for the Washington Nationals this season, Ryan Zimmerman might stick around a little longer, too.
Zimmerman and the Nationals made it official Saturday, announcing his $1 million, one-year contract. The deal came after the Nats’ longest-tenured player opted out of the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.
“If I can settle into this role and do well this year, by no means does this have to be my last year,” Zimmerman said on a video call with reporters. “At least that’s the way I’m looking at it.”
Zimmerman, 36, is a two-time All-Star and bats right-handed. His playing time likely will diminish after Washington traded for switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell from Pittsburgh last month.
It’s still uncertain whether the National League will employ the designated hitter this year. It was used as part of the new rules added for the virus-abbreviated season.
Zimmerman, however, wasn’t looking for a new opportunity in another city.
“Playing anywhere else would be really weird. Wouldn’t really be worth it,” he said.
Zimmerman has played 15 seasons in the majors, all for the Nationals. They took him with their first pick in the 2005 draft soon after moving from Montreal to Washington.
Zimmerman boosted the franchise to its World Series championship in 2019. He didn’t play last year, choosing to sit out because of concerns about his family’s health during the pandemic. His mother has multiple sclerosis; he and his wife had their third child last year.
“Me coming back this year was in no means for like a victory-lap sort of thing,” he said. “This is about coming back because I still think I can play the game at a high level, and I still think I can help the team win.”
The Nationals went 26-34 last season, tied with the Mets for last in the NL East.
Zimmerman batted .257 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 171 at-bats in 2019. He is a career .279 hitter with 270 home runs and 1,015 RBIs.
Zimmerman said he was pretty certain he’d return to the diamond.
“I don’t think it was ever 100 percent, but I don’t think it was under, like, 95 percent,” he said. “Once I was hanging out at home and watching the games and kind of getting into life without baseball, I think that number shot up to pretty close to 100 percent very quickly on my end.”
Zimmerman thanked general manager Mike Rizzo and the organization for the chance to play again.
“I didn’t know if they were going to offer me a major league deal, or if they were going to want me to come down on a minor league deal,” he said. “I’m 36 years old, and I haven’t played baseball in a year. So I think that shows, obviously, the respect that [Rizzo] and the team have for me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.”
Zimmerman gave up a $2 million salary last season, but received a $2 million buyout for the declined option at the end of his previous contract.
In addition to his $1 million base salary this year, Zimmerman can earn $250,000 for games: $50,000 each for 50, 65, 80, 95 and 100. He also can make $250,000 for plate appearances: $50,000 apiece for 200, 250, 300, 350 and 400.
He also gets a one-day use of Nationals Park for charity, as a provision in his contract.
Zimmerman’s deal includes $500,000 if he’s league MVP or $200,000 if he finishes second through fifth in voting. He would get $100,000 for making the All-Star team and another $100,000 if he’s the top vote-getter. Zimmerman would earn $250,000 for World Series MVP, $150,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $100,000 for Gold Glove, $100,000 for Silver Slugger, $100,000 for the Hank Aaron Award and $100,000 if he is Baseball America or The Sporting News player of the year.