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Ryan Zimmerman would rather stay in left field, but the Nationals need him at third base

Jun 23, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT

Ryan Zimmerman AP

Nationals manager Matt Williams has said repeatedly that Ryan Zimmerman will shift back to third base from left field once Bryce Harper is ready to come off the disabled list, but according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com “Zimmerman sounded like a guy that didn’t want to go back to third base.”

That assessment came after yesterday’s game, when Zimmerman said:

It’s fun out there [in left field]. It has taken some of the burden off of what I was feeling at third base. … I’ll see what happens. I’m pretty comfortable in left and I think Anthony [Rendon] is a hell of a third baseman. I think there is no doubt right now he is better over there than me. But you have to have your best players in the lineup somehow. Whatever Matt needs me to do, that’s what I’ll do.

Zimmerman’s chronic shoulder problems made playing third base a struggle for him and meant any forceful throw across the diamond could lead to needing time off, so it’s easy to see why he’d be hesitant to move back there full time. Still, unless the Nationals were to, say, trade Denard Span to open up an outfield spot the only way to get their best players into the lineup together is for Zimmerman to play mostly third base.

It’s a moot point for a bit longer, but Harper is due back from the disabled list around July 1.

  1. Andee - Jun 23, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    I can understand preference, but moving for a returning Bryce Harper isn’t exactly moving for a returning Roger Bernadina. The line up is obviously better with Harper.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 23, 2014 at 1:04 PM

      depends whether they resign LaRoche for next season.

      I think they’ll let LaRoche go after this season and then Zimmerman can move over to 1st base.

      LaRoche is 34 yrs old this year.

      In his time with the Nats, LaRoche’s batting average, slugging and OPS are below his career averages so the Nats haven’t gotten the best of what LaRoche has done in the game.

      Although he is having a great season this year so far. His OPS+ is and would be a career high by far.

      But, he’d be 35 next season and he could just as easily have a year for them like he did in 2013 when he wasn’t very good as opposed to this season.

      So, Zim will have to play 3rd base from July 1st to the end of this season, less the amount of games that Harper will miss in late July, Aug and in Sept… maybe another 18 to 20 games he’ll miss…

      Then it’s over to 1st base next season.

  2. jerze2387 - Jun 23, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    Trade span to Boston for middlebrooks. Works for both sides. Boston needs an OF, and Washington could use corner infield depth and youth, middlebrooks could use a fresh start. Bogaerts, cecchini or betts could combine to handle Ss/3b

    • dan1111 - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:14 PM

      The Nationals already have Rendon and Espinosa in their infield. It’s hard to see what Middlebrooks gives them.

      On the other hand, Middlebrooks’ stock is way down, but would the Sox really want to give him up for a half-season rental of a decent outfielder?

      Lose-lose.

      • jerze2387 - Jun 23, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        Well, it’d allow then to ease middlebrooks in as he showed he’s not quite ready for the bigs possibly, and provides a future 1b/3b option for when Laroche leaves. Also allows rendon to go back to 2b, where his bat would be even more valuable. Next year the infield could be zimmerman at 1st, rendon at 2nd Desmond at ss and middlebrooks at 3b

  3. robmar924 - Jun 23, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Zimmerman with the glove is still nasty, but the throws are hard to watch. I think he projects very well as 1B but this year I just don’t see what choices the Nats have. It will be interesting to see what happens when Harper gets back and it almost feels like we were just assuming somebody would get injured by the time Harper returned because nobody ultimately wants to see Ryan play third.

  4. someguyinva - Jun 23, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    I’m not convinced that the Nats best every day lineup isn’t Zimmerman in left, Harper in center, Werth in right, and Rendon, Desmond, Espinosa, and LaRoche in the infield. Span can be inserted for defense when the game’s close and late, and can start a couple times a week to give Werth, Zimmerman, or LaRoche (with Zim at first) a day off.

    Span’s got a rep as a great defender, but metrics don’t bear that out (he’s basically average), and he’s not really getting it done at leadoff, either (.318 OBP) Span’s in a similar position to LaRoche, contract-wise, so it’s not like he’d be a multi-year albatross, either; he can be gone as soon as the year’s over, and Zimmerman can move to first once the Nats decide one of their farmhands is ready to play OF in the majors.

    • emdash01 - Jun 23, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      Yeah, I like that idea better too – the Nats’ pitching staff is very groundball-heavy, so infield defense is more important than outfield defense for them. Span makes a play Harper wouldn’t maybe every few days, while Espinosa at second at Rendon at third make plays their replacements wouldn’t every day.

  5. bisonaudit - Jun 23, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Uptown problems. If everyone stays healthy, if. He’s still only going to play a little more than half his games at 3rd base. If everyone stays healthy it also gives the Nats a chance to say yes to trade offers they might otherwise not have been able to and leverage in the off season with impending free agents LaRoche and Span.

  6. 18thstreet - Jun 23, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    Zim can’t play third. He just can’t.

    If I were an opposing coach, I’d ask everyone to bunt toward him.

    • bisonaudit - Jun 23, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      This might work if any big league team had more than two guys who were capable of laying down a descent bunt.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Jun 23, 2014 at 6:11 PM

      That’s not really correct, 18thstreet. Zim is one helluva third baseman when it comes to charging the ball and bare handing it; his sidearm throw from a low slot is accurate and probably top-5 in the game. He destroys bunts, in other words. It’s hard grounders where he has to set his feet and throw over the top that give him fits; his shoulder is too stiff to allow that.

  7. simalex - Jun 24, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    So if Span sits, who’s the leadoff guy? Rendon? Harper? Werth?

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