Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sammy Solis, left, and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman talk between fan photos during the team's "Winterfest" baseball fan festival Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon
December 12, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) Ryan Zimmerman is about to play for his sixth full-time manager, Dusty Baker, since reaching the majors with the Washington Nationals a decade ago, so he's used to change.

What's different now is the way the roster looks.

Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann is gone after signing with Detroit for more than $100 million. Shortstop Ian Desmond, center fielder Denard Span and pitcher Doug Fister are free agents, too.

Over the past few days, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has retooled the bullpen, agreeing to deals with Yusmeiro Petit, Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez, while trading for Trevor Gott.

''As far as the turnover goes, we had a really good thing for a long time. We did a lot of things and took this organization to a place that it obviously had never been before,'' Zimmerman said Saturday at the team's Winterfest, a two-day fan festival.

''Sort of set the bar to where, now, every year we expect to contend and we expect to try and win the division, where five or six years ago, you obviously couldn't say that.''

Rizzo hoped for more additions but couldn't sign any of three sought-after free agents: outfielder Jason Heyward (who instead joined the Chicago Cubs), second baseman Ben Zobrist (Cubs, too) and reliever Darren O'Day (Baltimore Orioles).

''We made an aggressive, legitimate, market-value offer to a terrific player and he decided to (go) elsewhere,'' Rizzo said about Heyward, calling it a ''disappointment, obviously.''

He described Washington's offers to Zobrist and O'Day as ''competitive market-value deals.''

Two notable current members of the Nationals' roster didn't attend the fan event: Jonathan Papelbon - who grabbed NL MVP Bryce Harper by the throat in the dugout during a September game - and the pitcher Papelbon replaced as the team's closer, Drew Storen.

According to Rizzo, Papelbon ''had plans to be out of the country well before the dates of this came out,'' and Storen ''had prior commitments.''

That Harper-Papelbon episode happened in the dying days of a lost season, one that began with World Series aspirations and ended with Washington missing the playoffs entirely.

''It would have been weird if nothing like that happened,'' Zimmerman said about the dugout dustup. ''We should have been upset and should have been frustrated.''

The day after the regular season ended, manager Matt Williams was fired, eventually replaced by Baker.

Going into 2015, Zimmerman was aware that it very well could be the last hurrah for a core of homegrown players that included himself, Zimmermann and Desmond.

''That group will always be special to us, but also to the fans who saw me, Jordan, Ian - they basically saw us grow up,'' Zimmerman said. ''Those things happen. They end. Honestly, maybe it's good to have a little shake-up sometimes, too.''

Notes: Rizzo said the Nationals won't pursue a trade for Reds closer Aroldis Chapman while the pitcher's domestic violence case is pending. ''It's something that we're not going to continue to go after until we find out how things happened,'' Rizzo said. ''It's something that we don't want to get into ... because of the allegations against him.'' ... RHP Petit agreed to a free-agent deal, pending a physical exam. Rizzo called Petit ''a good swing guy'' who has ''pitched leverage innings in the playoffs'' and ''really gives the manager a lot of freedom and diversity,'' as someone who can start or throw multiple innings as a reliever.


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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