- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

The Washington Nationals’ negotiations on a long-term contract for third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, which spanned nearly three seasons and two front-office executives, finally reached a fruitful conclusion.

The team agreed to a long-term contract with Zimmerman on Sunday night and will announce the deal Monday, according to three sources with knowledge of the deal.

Terms were not immediately available, but it is believed Zimmerman and the Nationals were talking about a deal in the range of $9 million a year to run through at least 2013.

The contract brings to a conclusion the team’s efforts to sign its 2005 first-round pick to a deal that would buy out the first several years of Zimmerman’s free agency. The team has consistently marketed Zimmerman as its franchise player, and team executives have long stated their desire to reach a multiyear deal before he hit free agency.

He agreed to a one-year, $3.325 million deal with the Nationals on the eve of his first arbitration hearing in February.

Washington had discussed the possibility of a long-term contract with Zimmerman since the 24-year-old’s second year in the majors. Negotiations, while amicable, went back and forth from tepid to productive in the past two years but heated up after general manager Jim Bowden resigned March 1.

Team president Stan Kasten took over negotiations at that time, with the goal of reaching a deal by Opening Day. That didn’t happen, and Zimmerman said at the time he didn’t want negotiations to continue through the season.

Asked about the state of negotiations Friday after FoxSports.com reported a deal was close to done, Zimmerman maintained he wasn’t aware of a deal being imminent.

“Talk to Stan and [agent Brodie Van Wagenen]. Maybe they are doing something, but I’m playing baseball,” he said Friday. “That’s the way I’ve looked at it the whole season, and I haven’t heard anything. Unless they are talking or doing something, I don’t know. I’m just worried about playing.”

Calls to acting general manager Mike Rizzo and Zimmerman were not returned, and Van Wagenen declined to comment.

Zimmerman was believed to be seeking a deal in the neighborhood of the six-year, $66 million contract Baltimore outfielder Nick Markakis signed last season. He is hitting .275 with two homers and 10 RBI this season.

Zimmerman was second in the 2006 NL rookie of the year voting after batting .287 with 20 home runs and 110 RBI. He hit 24 homers and drove in 91 runs in 2007, although his numbers dipped to 14 homers and 51 RBI in 2008 after he missed 50 games with a tear in his left shoulder.

• Ben Goessling can be reached at bgoessling@washingtontimes.com.

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