Zimmerman says no contract talks past Friday. We're all acting like this is a big deal, but it isn't. Zimmerman has 2 years left on his deal. He'd like an extension now, but by all accounts is not holding it against the Nats if they don't sign him. He's only said he'll test free agency if he doesn't have a deal in place by the start of NEXT year. So all this amounts to is a big gamble for both sides, not a do or die situation.
When Ryan is healthy his combination of defense & offense makes him one of the top players in the league. He was 7th in WAR in 2009, 6th in 2010. Over those two years you could argue that only Albert Pujols and Evan Longoria were more valuable players. Don't gloss over that. He was arguably the third best overall player in baseball over a two year stretch. 3rd best! Third!
Problem is Ryan isn't always healthy. Since 2007 he's only had one full season, missing minor time in 2010 and major time in 2008 and last year. He may still be a great player but if he can only play 60% of the season, he deserves 60% of the pay, right? Injuries tend to haunt players. Not only can that same area get injured, but once they get an injury sometimes a player tends to compensate in ways that make other injuries more likely. All the while they are aging and the body just can't heal like it used to.* The player might become a less productive hitter. It might all pile up so they just can't play full season anymore. At the same time the Nats are most likely looking at an extension that takes Ryan into his mid 30s. His body isn't that old. He could easily give the Nats 5 great full years before he hits 35. Is he Scott Rolen or is he Eric Chavez?
By not working out a deal with Ryan the Nats are taking a risk. If he puts up a season like 2009 or 2010 then the Nats will have to compensate him as one of the best players in the league, because for 3 out of the last 4 years he would have been just that. We're talking 6 years at 20 million per as the starting point. I'd be shocked if he didn't get more than 150 million. However if he gets injured again, or somehow doesn't play up to the same level he had in the past then the Nats can negotiate that down a lot. What was 7 years, 160 mill might now be 5 years, 70 mill.
What makes this gamble is what Ryan is asking for right now. My guess is that it's gotta be close to Tulo's 6/120. Assuming that, I'd say the gamble of not signing him is probably worth it. The only way you pay a lot more is if he is healthy and great. If he's healthy but more average he probably gets about the same. If he has minor injuries (say around 130 games played) but plays great he probably gets the same. Anything else (minor+average, major+great, etc. ) and he gets a a lot less. It's a bet that's in the Nats favor.
So I don't expect a signing before Friday. Since its not a bad gamble for the Nats to wait, they are probably trying to get a minor discount right now (think 6/108) and might actually stick to that. Ryan will then have a chance to literally make them pay. I think most players would be fine with that.
*I hate the "Nick Johnson" comparisons. Nick had a ball bounce up and hit him in the face. He broke his leg in a collision with another player. He may have been injury prone but really his career was derailed by bad luck, more than a frail body