VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals’ first full-squad workout of the season came and went with no agreement on a contract extension for third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
But early Saturday afternoon, the two sides were still thick into negotiations with Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, bringing another “creative solution to try and bridge this gap,” to the Nationals, Zimmerman said. One way or the other they’d have an answer by the end of Saturday.
“Today is the day,” Zimmerman said. “It’s either going to get done or it’s not going to get done. Both sides are working to get over the last little couple of hurdles. We’re both trying to get creative. (Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo) and Brodie are talking now. It’ll be done, either yes or no, today. We’ll have closure either way.”
Zimmerman, the Nationals’ cornerstone, set a deadline of the team’s first workout of the spring for when to either have an extension agreed upon or table discussions until next offseason. The start of the workout came and went without any word. Rizzo and Ed Cohen, one of the Nationals’ principal owners, spent the majority of the workout having an animated discussion on the field.
The biggest hurdle at this point is the issue of a no-trade clause. Zimmerman is adamant that one be included in the deal — which the Nationals have known for some time — and the “creative” solutions he referred to were related to that.
“It’s the same thing we’ve been talking about the whole time,” he said. “It’s something creative to ensure me that I will be here. Because that’s the reason I’m signing the deal. That’s basically the only thing left.”
The Nationals used to have a policy exclusively against no-trade clauses but they offered a full one to Jayson Werth in the 2010 offseason and for the man who’s been their cornerstone throughout their time in Washington, it’s a sticking point.
Just before 2 p.m., Rizzo said the sides would continue to negotiate throughout the day.
“We’re still working toward an agreement,” he said. “We don’t have an agreement at this time. We’ve come a long way and bridged a big gap from the beginning of this to where we are currently, but we’re not there yet.
“This is a very complicated, lucrative contract that we’re discussing, and we’re not quite at the finish line yet. I’m still hopeful that we can come to an agreement, but we’re not there yet.”
If he signs an extension with the Nationals, Zimmerman, 27, will earn 10-5 rights after the 2015 season meaning he’ll have 10 years of major league service time, the last five of it with the same team — giving him a full no-trade clause anyway. It appears that the next four years, though, are where the discrepancy lies with Zimmerman only willing to sign what he termed a “team-friendly” deal with regard to salary if it means he’ll remain in a Nationals’ uniform throughout the life of the deal.
“If anybody deserves it, he deserves it,” said shortstop Ian Desmond, one of the only players with longer tenure in the organization than Zimmerman. “I think it would be a great direction for the organization to go in and it would be nice to see that they’re going to commit to him full time. If they don’t, I can understand, but I think it’s a win-win. If it doesn’t get done, Zim, I’m sure, will negotiate at another moment and be here.
“I don’t think Zim’s going to go anywhere. I think he loves being able to play at home in front of people, he’s comfortable here. He’s like a superstar.”
Rizzo said that while Zimmerman’s deadline appears firm and will stop the third baseman from discussing the negotiations, it will not stop him from pursuing a deal if one is not reached by the end of Saturday.
“He’s a ballplayer,” Rizzo said. “It’s not his job to worry about this stuff. It’s my job and it’s his agent’s job to worry about the negotiating of the contract… We need Ryan Zimmerman to be concentrating 100 percent on baseball. I think it’s very typical.
“If we can’t come to an agreement by the end of today, or whatever the deadline is, I’m certainly going to continue to discuss the contract — because I want to sign Ryan Zimmerman.”