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Ryan Zimmerman seals deal with Washington Nationals, says this might not be last year

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WASHINGTON — Now that he’s set to play for the Washington Nationals this season, Ryan Zimmerman might stick around a little longer, too.

Zimmerman and the Nationals made it official Saturday, announcing his $1 million, one-year contract. The deal came after the Nats’ longest-tenured player opted out of the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.

“If I can settle into this role and do well this year, by no means does this have to be my last year,” the 36-year-old Zimmerman said on a video call with reporters. “At least that’s the way I’m looking at it.”

Zimmerman is a two-time All-Star and bats right-handed. His playing time likely will diminish after Washington traded for switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell from Pittsburgh last month.

It’s still uncertain whether the National League will employ the designated hitter this year. It was used as part of the new rules added for the virus-abbreviated season.

Zimmerman, however, wasn’t looking for a new opportunity in another city.

“Playing anywhere else would be really weird. Wouldn’t really be worth it,” he said.

Zimmerman has played 15 seasons in the majors, all for the Nationals. They took him with their first pick in the 2005 draft soon after moving from Montreal to Washington.

Zimmerman boosted the franchise to its World Series championship in 2019. He didn’t play last year, choosing to sit out because of concerns about his family’s health during the pandemic. His mother has multiple sclerosis; he and his wife had their third child last year.

“Me coming back this year was in no means for like a victory lap sort of thing,” he said. “This is about coming back because I still think I can play the game at a high level, and I still think I can help the team win.”

The Nationals went 26-34 last season, tied with the Mets for last in the NL East.

Zimmerman batted .257 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 171 at-bats in 2019. He is a career .279 hitter with 270 home runs and 1,015 RBIs.

Zimmerman said he was pretty certain he’d return to the diamond.

“I don’t think it was ever 100%, but I don’t think it was under, like, 95%,” he said. “Once I was hanging out at home and watching the games and kind of getting into life without baseball, I think that number shot up to pretty close to 100% very quickly on my end.”

Zimmerman thanked general manager Mike Rizzo and the organization for the chance to play again.

“I didn’t know if they were going to offer me a major league deal, or if they were going to want me to come down on a minor league deal,” he said. “I’m 36 years old, and I haven’t played baseball in a year. So I think that shows, obviously, the respect that [Rizzo] and the team have for me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.”

Zimmerman gave up a $2 million salary last season, but received a $2 million buyout for the declined option at the end of his previous contract.

In addition to his $1 million base salary this year, Zimmerman can earn $250,000 for games: $50,000 each for 50, 65, 80, 95 and 100. He also can make $250,000 for plate appearances: $50,000 apiece for 200, 250, 300, 350 and 400.

He also gets a one-day use of Nationals Park for charity, as a provision in his contract.

Zimmerman’s deal includes $500,000 if he’s league MVP or $200,000 if he finishes second through fifth in voting. He would get $100,000 for making the All-Star team and another $100,000 if he’s the top vote-getter. Zimmerman would earn $250,000 for World Series MVP, $150,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $100,000 for Gold Glove, $100,000 for Silver Slugger, $100,000 for the Hank Aaron Award and $100,000 if he is Baseball America or The Sporting News player of the year.

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Jose Abreu tests positive for COVID-19, but Chicago White Sox say star 1B is ‘completely asymptomatic’

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Chicago White Sox star first baseman Jose Abreu has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be away from the club for the next several days.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn announced Wednesday that Abreu, the reigning American League MVP, is “completely asymptomatic” and “frustrated.”

Hahn said that Abreu believes he “contracted a mild case” of the coronavirus last month, a belief that is “reinforced by the presence of COVID antibodies in additional testing.”

“Other than being frustrated, Jose feels great and, like the rest of us, is looking forward to when he rejoins the club in the not too distant future,” Hahn said.

Abreu, 34, is entering his eighth season with the White Sox and is expected to be the centerpiece of Chicago’s powerful lineup.

The three-time All-Star led the White Sox to their first postseason appearance since 2008 last season, when he batted .317 with 19 home runs and led the majors with 60 RBIs.

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Minnesota Twins top prospect Royce Lewis out for 2021 season with torn ACL

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Minnesota Twins shortstop Royce Lewis, considered the organization’s top prospect, has a torn ACL in his right knee that will sideline him for the 2021 season.

President of baseball operations Derek Falvey said Wednesday that Lewis was diagnosed with the injury during physical exams upon reporting to spring training. The 21-year-old Lewis, the first overall pick in the 2017 amateur draft, will have reconstructive surgery Friday in Minnesota before returning to camp to begin a rehabilitation process of nine-to-12 months.

Lewis recently was ranked by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel as the top prospect in Minnesota’s system and the No. 15 overall prospect in baseball. He finished the 2019 season at Double-A.

Because the pandemic wiped out all minor league action in 2020, Lewis will go more than two full years without a game. The Twins signed Andrelton Simmons to play shortstop this season, and Lewis was not expected to be in the majors in 2021.

Lewis told the team he first noticed discomfort in the knee after lateral running drills this month as part of his training regimen. Then, during the winter storms that recently hit Texas, Lewis slipped on ice in the Dallas area where he lives and experienced further soreness. The Twins were unable to determine exactly how or when the ligament was torn.

“He’s got a smile on his face, knows he’s going to have a rehab year ahead, knows he’s going to have to put in a lot of work, but he’s prepared and ready to do that,” Falvey said, “and I know he’s looking forward to getting back on the field.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Kings of Command: Breakout pitchers to draft in fantasy baseball

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Which overlooked pitchers have the skill set to come up with a big season? Tristan H. Cockcroft digs deep into the numbers to present his annual “Kings of Command.”

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