Zimmerman: 'Fans deserve to see the best players in the world'

Chris Lingebach
February 22, 2019 - 1:32 pm
Zimmerman: 'Fans deserve to see the best players in the world'

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

"The fans deserve to see the best players in the world play baseball," says Nationals slugger Ryan Zimmerman. "And a lot of those guys haven't been on the field the last two years."

A majority of the focus this offseason has been on the two biggest free agents, Bryce Harper and, until this week, Manny Machado, and how long it's taken them to sign on somewhere. But behind them some 80-plus Major League caliber players still sit in free agency, already behind the eight ball as spring training swings into full gear.

"I think the 10-year deals are obviously the ones that get the most attention," Zimmerman told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier of 106.7 The Fan. "The teams love to say that they're bad deals because the last two or three years usually aren't as good as the first seven or eight. They don't ever talk about WAR in those contracts, which is funny, because the first four to five, six years, they probably pay off the 10-year deal, if you calculate.

"1 WAR is worth – you know, they won't tell you how much. Nobody knows, because nobody knows the actual equation. It is whatever they want it to be. 1 WAR is somewhere between $8-10 million, so Robinson Cano made that 200-and-whatever million dollars probably in the first six years of his contract. You know, that's the price you have to pay. He's a free agent. You can't have every player from the time they leave the minor leagues until the time, six years in, so that's their right and they've earned that."

"The other guys are the more important part. The big league guys, the 30-to-33-year-old guys that are still really good players," Zimmerman said. "And not even looking at it at a players standpoint, I think looking at it from a fan's standpoint. The fans deserve to see the best players in the world play baseball, and a lot of those guys haven't been on the field the last two years, not because they can't help a team win.

"We're lucky. We play for a team that tries to win every year. The Lerners, that's why I say I would never say a bad thing about them. They've spent money every single year, they learn, they do things every year to give us a chance to win. Rizz, those guys – you can't say enough good things about them. So we're some of the lucky ones that are on a team that does that. Pretty much our whole division did that this year."

"I was gonna say, the NL East," Paulsen jumped in. "If there's 16 teams in the sport that are desperate to win their division this year, four of them are in the NL East right now."

"Yeah, it's fun. That's how it should be. It's exciting. We can talk about it," said Zimmerman. "I think the Indians are gonna win the AL Central. I'm gonna go out on a limb. So, cool for those fans. Show up in Sept. 25 and, like, here we go."

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As the conversation broke down into fans not being able to relate to how much money players are already making, Zimmerman explained that that's what happens far too often. Conversations about labor issues break down in the public's eye and tend to only focus on the money, while the complexities of their arguments get overlooked.

"There's gonna be money made by everyone. You're gonna make money, and we're gonna make an obscene amount of money. That's fine," said Zimmerman. "Competition should be the basis of the argument. Every team should be trying to win."

"Team to team, you mean," Paulsen said.

"Yeah. The league," said Zimmerman. "That's how you have the best league. Every team should try and win. That's what's best for the fans."

Zimmerman proposed a radical change to baseball's first-year player draft. Basically the NBA Draft lottery flipped on its head.

"Make the teams want to win and then they'll pay the best players," Zimmerman said. "I think the draft is a huge thing that needs to change. Teams are putting so much stock into their draft picks, those top-five picks are so valuable. Make teams earn those picks, don't hand them those picks for losing.

"The teams that make the playoffs go to the end and then flip it. Do a lottery. The team that has the most wins gets the most ping pong balls in there. Everyone still has their fair chance to get the one pick, but now that team that's gonna win 78 games, they're gonna try like heck to win 84 games so they can get extra balls in there, to try and get that first pick. Competition. Competition."

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