VIERA, Fla. — As Ryan Zimmerman walked into the press conference to announce his six-year $100 million contract extension on Sunday, he was dressed in a home white No. 11 jersey. To his left was two rows of seated teammates fresh out of the team’s workout and several more standing behind them who were left without a seat due to the volume that attended.
Zimmerman was surprised to see them all there — more nervous in front of them, he said, than answering questions in front of a room full of anyone else — but it didn’t matter. In the 20 minutes or so Zimmerman spoke, he said all the right things, which should have come as no surprise. He mentioned watching Cal Ripken Jr. play his entire career in one uniform as a kid, talked of how lucky he felt to be in a position to play his entire career with one team, how D.C. has become his hometown and how humbled he was considering the magnitude of the contract he’d just signed.
When he mentioned being “comfortable” as a big part of wanting to get this deal done, he mentioned his teammates, coaches and the city of D.C., of course, but he also brought up the Nationals Park cooks, the security guards, the parking attendants.
Here are a few highlights from the press conference:
– The no-trade issue was a big one in this negotiation and the two sides cleared several hurdles in that regard late in the discussions. Ultimately, they agreed on a full no-trade clause for the six years of the extension (of which Zimmerman’s 10-5 rights would have kicked in after the second year anyway) and the option year. They did not, however, touch Zimmerman’s current contract, which is worth $26 million and runs through the 2013 season.
In order to ensure Zimmerman that he would not be traded within the next two years — allowing another team to capitalize on the “team-friendly” nature of the contract he signed for the Nationals — they included “certain intricacies and contingencies that allow Ryan to be comfortable with the assurances that he’s going to be here, that have financial components to it,” Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA said.
A person with knowledge of the agreement clarified things more simply in that there are several financial escalators in the extension that would kick in if Zimmerman were to be traded — ones that would basically make it cost-prohibitive to trade for him.
“We didn’t go through this exercise and sign Zim to a six-year — plus option year — to trade him in the next two years,” said Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo. “With Mike Rizzo as the GM of the Washington Nationals, he will not be traded in the next two years… My feeling on the matter is: Why would I trade a 27-year-old, 28-year-old All-Star player in the next two years? It doesn’t make a lot of sense on a lot of levels.”
– The contract also includes $10 million in “personal services” which is deferred money until after Zimmerman is retired that will be paid out over five years as he works for the organization in his post-playing days.
Zimmerman was adamant about two things publicly during this negotiation: That he wanted to sign a deal that would ensure him he’d stay in D.C. over the life of the contract and that he didn’t want his deal to be so outrageous that it prevented the Nationals from continuing to better their team and have payroll flexibility — even without going out and signing big-name free agents.
“Pretty soon,” Zimmerman said. “With having guys like we have, they’re going to have to start paying some people.”
The “personal services” aspect of the contract is an example of the creative ways Zimmerman and the Nationals worked toward putting together a deal they felt was fair for both sides.
– Zimmerman was a bit speechless when he considered the magnitude of his contract and the fact that he could potentially have $150 million coming his way over the next nine years. No player goes into a contract negotiation looking to be taken advantage of but one thing that was refreshing about Zimmerman was how up front he was about the dollar amounts. He knew no matter what it was, it’d most likely be more than he could spend in his lifetime.
“I don’t think it really has settled in how much it is,” Zimmerman said. “I think this is the kind of stuff where the kids are taken care of, their kids are taken care of. I don’t like to think about that stuff. It makes me, I don’t really know what to say about it. It’s a lot of money.
“That’s another thing that makes you want to work even harder to almost prove it to them that I was worth it and at the end of the deal they want to say, ‘Hey, that was worth our money to do that.’ I think that’s my goal is at the end of this contract to have them say, ‘Hey, that was a great deal on our part,’ and I’m going to work as hard as I can to make them think that.”
“I grew up watching Cal Ripken and what he did,” he added. “There’s a couple of us now that happen to be pretty good friends in (Troy) Tulowitzki and (Ryan) Braun. We were all at the same draft. Not that we talked about that a long time ago, but as it started creeping up, we talked about how cool it would be to play your whole career in one organization.
“It takes you working hard and them wanting to keep you. But on the other hand, it takes a person not wanting to chase. It’s not always greener on the other side. A lot of this deal, and a lot of the terms and the money, I was accepted to it because I want to be comfortable. I’ve always been comfortable here.”
– As big of a day as this was for the Nationals and for Zimmerman, it was also a big day for his family, who lives in Virginia Beach. They didn’t make it down for the press conference which Zimmerman said probably disappointed them but figured they’d watch it on T.V. and joked that he was “boring” to them by now. Zimmerman’s mother has battled multiple sclerosis since 1995 and his ZiMS foundation raises a significant amount of money for those affected by MS and their families.
“Everyone goes through so much growing up and obviously they’ve done a lot to help me get to where I am today,” Zimmerman said. “I think family is an important thing, I think, in everyone’s life and I’m very lucky to have the family that I have.”