The Nats New $45 Million “Face”

Nationals sign third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to big new contract

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals finally have a "face," and we're not talking about the faces of the "Racing Presidents." This face will cost the team a lot more money.

Ryan Zimmerman officially signed a new five-year, $45 million dollar contract that will keep his face in the Nats clubhouse through the 2013 season, the Nationals said Monday.

The new deal for the Nats third baseman is a long time coming. Zim and the Nats started talking about a deal a couple of years ago. And if his new salary is any indication, it cost the Nats to wait. Zimmerman will receive a $1.675 million raise from his old deal -- a little more than a normal cost of living increase.

"I still see him -- and hopefully everybody will see him for years to come -- as the face of our franchise," manager Manny Acta said shortly before this season started.

Zimmerman was runner-up to the National League Rookie of the Year in 2006, batting .287 with 20 home runs and 110 RBIs in his first year after being drafted out of the University of Virginia.

"I was born close to here, I lived close to here, I went to school close to here," Zimmerman said recently. "It's a perfect situation for me."

This year he's batting .275 with two homers and 10 RBIs, to go along with three errors (but we won't dwell on those).

The Nats see Zim as the cornerstone of their future. However, that future is looking very bleak.

His signing came on Sunday, after the Nats, amidst a strong chorus of boos from what was otherwise a weak Sunday afternoon crowd, let yet another late-inning lead slip away. The loss prompted Manny Acta to quickly demote three of his bullpen pitchers to the minor leagues.

The team is a dismal, league-worst 1-10 this season, and will open a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves tonight, weather permitting.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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