Earlier, we discussed the case for signing Ryan Zimmerman. Most fans probably agree with the sentiment there, but there is a case against re-signing, which mostly him rests on whether or not they think he’s good enough and healthy enough. I think my stance on the “good enough” part of the analysis is pretty clear from the previous post. However, we need to touch on that injury section of our assessment.
And for that, and the maybe the biggest bulwark for the case against, I present to you…
I was thinking of leaving it at that, but I guess I’ll dive into it a little bit more. Chavez was a spectacular player in the early 2000s, a power hitting third baseman with a great eye and spectacular defense. He hit .280/.357/.513 from 2000-2004, the 5 seasons from age 22 to 26, and averaged 30 homers a year, all while playing in a pitchers park. But 2004 was the first time he saw significant time on the DL, thanks to a hand injury.
2005 saw some shoulder issues, although he managed to not miss any time, playing in 160 games. But he saw a significant drop in OBP and SLG, hitting only .269/.329/.466 – this still isn’t bad for a gold glove 3B, but it’s way off from the previous years. Rather than a true recovery in 2006, while he was able to improve his OBP, his power dropped off and he only hit 22 HRs, his lowest total since 1999 (when he was 21). He also experienced his first bit of missed time due to forearm soreness. The remainder of his career consisted of a ton of time on the DL thanks to forearm issues and back problems, and unimpressive hitting when he was playing. Since 2007, he’s hit .239/.296/.390 and has only averaged 42 games a season.
The A’s signed him to a long term deal in 2004, and at the time there was no reason to think he wouldn’t live up to the $66M payday. But he basically never had a good season after he signed, and it was all because of injuries. The A’s were very weighed down by this contract and didn’t have a winning season the last four years of his deal. Keep in mind that I loved Chavez as a player back in the early 2000s, he was my favorite player back then despite my complete lack of any A’s affiliation. So this isn’t meant as a skewering of Chavez, he was a GREAT player for half of a decade. But it is a cautionary tale as to what a long term contract can be like if a guy gets hurt, even a star.
It’s not to say that Ryan Zimmerman IS injury prone, or that the Nats would be mistaken in signing him. Even if Zimmerman does sign a deal and gets hurt, the Nats are not in the same financial position that Oakland is, and would be able to handle it better.
Despite this warning, I think the good outweighs the bad, and that they should go after him with an extension. This just demonstrates that the idea of this no-brainer contract extension isn’t a no-brainer. Eric Chavez was a young superstar, and if he just stayed the same without improving beyond his age 22-26 seasons, he would have been a perennial MVP candidate. Instead, he fell off a cliff, and an “easy” signing for the A’s ended being a huge mistake for them.
…also he went to UVa.