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Zimmermann, Desmond decline qualifying offers

Nov 13, 2015, 5:29 PM EDT

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Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, as expected, have declined the qualifying offers extended to them by the Nationals last week, leaving both players full-fledged free agents and ensuring Washington will receive two compensatory draft picks if and when they sign elsewhere this winter.

Zimmermann and Desmond never figured to accept the qualifying offer — a 1-year, $15.8 million contract to return to the Nationals in 2016 — so this news comes as no surprise to the club. But it does finalize the process that allows the Nats to receive something in return for losing their top two free agents.

In declining their qualifying offers, Zimmermann and Desmond aren’t completely closing the door on a return to D.C. They’re simply now allowed to negotiate with any of MLB’s 30 clubs, including the Nationals. That said, to date there has been no indication from either the Nats front office or either player’s side that negotiations are planned.

Though neither free agent is likely to command the kind of mammoth contract he hoped to get after a disappointing 2015, each still is expected to be among the top available players on the open market this winter and wind up with long-term deals. Zimmermann could sign for five or six years at $20 million annually or more; Desmond could sign for four or five years at $15 million annually or more.

Any club that signs either Zimmermann or Desmond now must forfeit its top unprotected 2016 draft pick — anything outside of the top 10 of the first round — but that pick won’t simply be transferred to the Nationals. Washington’s compensation picks will come at the end of the first round, based on the 2015 records of other teams that lose free agents for whom they extended qualifying offers. With many teams’ picks going away after they sign players who turned down qualifying offers, the Nationals could end up with a pair of picks in the 20s to go along with the first-round pick they already own (currently 18th).

The Nationals could have extended qualifying offers to two other prominent free agents (Denard Span and Doug Fister) but chose not to before last Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline. The concern from the club’s standpoint was that either player might have been tempted to accept the offer, return to D.C. in 2016 and attempt to re-establish his value after suffering through injuries (Span) or inconsistent performance (Fister) this year.

The fact Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters and Dodgers lefty Brett Anderson all accepted their qualifying offers this week — they’re the first players to do so in four years since this system was installed — might have justified the Nationals’ decision with Span and Fister.

  1. sunshinebobby - Nov 13, 2015 at 6:22 PM

    “In declining their qualifying offers, Zimmermann and Desmond aren’t completely closing the door on a return to D.C.”

    Yes, they are.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 13, 2015 at 6:43 PM

      I believe that door was closed before the 2015 season started.

  2. npb99 - Nov 13, 2015 at 6:54 PM

    I can’t imagine the Nats making any kind of offer to Desmond. That ship has sailed. But is it possible they’ll lurk on the edge of negotiations with Zimmermann, and consider swooping in with an offer at some point? I could imagine that.

    • senators5 - Nov 13, 2015 at 7:28 PM

      I agree unless the Red Sox or Cubs go crazy and they already are. So unfortunately, I see JZ in a Red Sox uni, which if he has to leave, at least he is in the AL.

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 13, 2015 at 8:48 PM

        Red Sox signed Craig Kimbrel.

  3. lesatcsc - Nov 13, 2015 at 11:00 PM

    Not sad in either case. Both have had great days in a Nats uni, but both are bad bets at the price they will command (and deserve to command) going forward. JZimm is a risk because of the huge number of innings he has logged on a repaired arm and Desi just isn’t worth the money at 30 that someone is going to pay him. Great managers move on from guys who have already given their best and will be paid for it when they can’t give it anymore. This is smart baseball by Mr Rizzo.

    In particular I really wish JZimm the best. I will cheer for him wherever he pitches, but even more so if he pitches for a poor AL team. I would love to see him win 20 a couple of times for a team that never plays the Nats in the playoffs. I think it is more likely that his best seasons are behind him so I think not spending huge bucks to keep him around is a very reasonable gamble, but it would be nice to see him have another good year or two.

    • Doc - Nov 14, 2015 at 12:04 AM

      Well stated. Time for both them and the Nats to move on.

  4. hummel26 - Nov 17, 2015 at 9:10 PM

    Meanwhile, the Giants just locked up a shortstop in his prime (Brandon Crawford) for a “mere” 12.5M per year for SIX years. This is how it’s done, folks! Get them a little bit early so they feel like they got a bit of a bonus for the years you still controlled them, and then give them slightly less than market for a long term deal. Crawford will be 34 when it expires, so SF won’t ever have to pay him a big payout when he’s sure to be in decline. They saved money, got security for him and them for a long period, but won’t be paying out during his later years. I get that it’s tricky, but they also did this wit MadBum. If the Nats had done this with Stras a couple of years ago or Desi (maybe offer the extension a couple years earlier), they’d have more security and better payroll control. True, Desi started sliding fast, but maybe he wouldn’t have pressed so much last year.

    The Giants know how to do it. With Posey and that amazing, young infield (and Tomlinson, to boot!), they are set for while at most positions and can focus on Starting Pitching and outfield.





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