Ryan Zimmerman contract talks ongoing

Third baseman hopeful deal can be reached by Saturday

VIERA, Fla. — As the hours ticked toward a self-imposed Saturday deadline, Ryan Zimmerman appeared as relaxed as ever Friday morning. There was nothing new to report on his contract-extension negotiations, the third baseman said.

“Nothing has changed” since Thursday, Zimmerman said upon arrival in the Nationals’ clubhouse. He said he had spoken to general manager Mike Rizzo, but the two talked only about Brewers star Ryan Braun’s suspension being overturned. Rizzo also said Friday morning there were no new developments.

Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen was in Viera on Wednesday and Thursday trying to hammer out an extension for his client, who is currently under contract through the 2013 season. Zimmerman has said he wants any negotiations wrapped up by Saturday, the first day of official workouts for position players.

The Nationals and Zimmerman have been close on an extension for some time but sources told The Washington Times that there are still hurdles to clear before anything can be agreed upon. One of the main ones is a full no-trade clause, the idea being that Zimmerman, coming off a year in which he missed 60 games with an abdominal tear, doesn’t want to sign a team-friendly deal only to be flipped to another team.

A new deal likely would run five to eight years and be worth $110 million to $160 million. Though he didn’t come right out and say it Friday, it’s clear Zimmerman would prefer to have that included in any deal. The thinking is, if Zimmerman remains healthy and productive he’d most likely be able to earn more money on the open market at age 29 — but his desire is to be in D.C. where he’s played his entire career.

“The point of me signing this deal is to be here,” he said, “not to sign a deal that’s team-friendly to have it with another team. That’s the whole point of the deal.”

Told that Zimmerman’s deadline for a contract to either be agreed upon or tabled until next offseason was Saturday before the team’s first full squad workout, Nationals manager Davey Johnson quipped, “Well, maybe I’ll postpone the workout.”

“I think it’s a great idea (to extend him) and I hope that they come together and get it done,” Johnson said. “He’s the franchise player. He’s the three-hole hitter. Leader of the infield. He’s all of the above … I know he’s under contract for this year and next year, but I think everybody from ownership to the staff to the players would like to see it completed, rather than not completed.”

Still, Zimmerman insisted he hasn’t spent much time worrying about whether the new deal will get done.

“If it happens, I’m thrilled. If not, I’ve got two years left here still and I’m excited for this year,” he said. “I think we’ve got a great team, we’ve got a chance to do something special, something that’s never been done with this organization, and I think all of us are kind of ready to get to work and just get going.”

That’s what he’ll do Saturday morning along with the rest of the position players no matter what happens with negotiations. In order for things to continue past that date, he said, the “big things have to be taken care of.” While Zimmerman isn’t interested in ongoing negotiations during the season, there’s nothing to preclude he and the Nats from revisiting the subject next offseason if a deal isn’t struck by Saturday. Not signing the deal, though, does bring up the possibility — however remote — that the Nationals could look to trade him at the July 31 deadline when his value is the highest it’ll be before free agency in 2013.

“It’s not like this is the last year, so this is not a make-or-break, but I think getting this done would obviously make them not have to worry about it for this year or next year or next offseason or anything like that,” Zimmerman said. “It kind of gives us a core group of guys in place for a long time and they can forget about me and start worrying about the younger guys that are going to need to be taken care of in a couple years.”

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