The Washington Nationals are talking to shortstop Ian Desmond and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann about contract extensions to keep them in the nation's capitol long-term, reports Pete Kerzel of MASN Sports.
General manager Mike Rizzo said last month that the team would like to lock in both players. It appears initial dscussions have been had between the Nationals and Zimmermann/Desmond. Both players are two years from free agency, so there is some time left before a deal would need to be reached. However, with free agents earning unprecedented amounts of money this offseason, it might be wiser to strike sooner.
The Nationals also will need to be aware of future extensions with other players, most notably Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The former won't be a free agent for three more years while the latter has five more seasons of team control. Signing them before they reach free agency could keep their salaries in check a little bit, but for such big stars they are likely to still command enormous contracts.
Desmond and Zimmermann should both fall within more reasonable contract perimeters, though neither will come cheap. Both are among the best at playing valuable positions on the diamond and both will expect to be paid as such.
Desmond, 28, has broken out the last two years to prove he has one of the better bats for a shortstop in the league. He has topped 20 home runs each of the past two seasons and consistently steals 20 bases. Furthermore, he has an 812 OPS combined since 2012 and has been named an All Star in both 2012 and 2013. Jhonny Peralta's name will likely come up in any new contract discussions. Peralta received a four-year contract that will see him earn $53 million. Desmond is younger and arguably better than Peralta, so that contract will be a probable starting point.
Zimmermann, 27, can expect even more. He has developed into not just one of the best pitchers on the Nationals, but one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Zimmermann finished seventh in NL Cy Young voting this past year after a campaign in which he posted a 3.25 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Over the past three seasons, he has a combined 3.12 ERA. While not overpowering, Zimmermann posted a nice seven strikeouts per nine innings in 2013. He also has outstanding control, walking no more than two batters per nine in any of the last three years.
Potential contracts will be pricey, and the Nationals must be aware of how much salary room they have when the time comes to discuss deals with Strasburg and Harper. For now, however, the team is hoping to make it work with Zimmermann and Desmond and will hope to have more contract negotiations in the future.