- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2009

VIERA, Fla. | There was never any question Ryan Zimmerman was going to be on the Washington Nationals‘ roster this season. There was only the question of how his contract terms would be determined.

The Nationals and their star third baseman reached agreement late Thursday night on a one-year, $3.325 million contract to avoid an arbitration hearing.

“Either way it was going to be resolved [Friday], but I’m glad that we were able to get an agreement with the guy and not go through the arbitration hearing, because it’s not a good process,” manager Manny Acta said. “I know what goes on in there, and I don’t think anyone wants to go in there and hear all the negative stuff being said about you.”

Zimmerman and his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, and Nationals executives, including general manager Jim Bowden, had flown to Phoenix in preparation for the hearing. A three-judge panel would have sided with the player and awarded Zimmerman $3.9 million, or with the club and awarded him $2.75 million.

But both sides sat down Thursday night and hashed out a deal on their own and settled shortly before midnight MST at the midpoint between the two arbitration offers. The contract also includes bonuses based on plate appearances: an extra $75,000 if Zimmerman has 500 this year, and an additional $50,000 each for reaching 550 and 600 plate appearances.

It’s a sizable raise for the 24-year-old, who made $465,000 last season.

Zimmerman, the last Nationals player to agree to a contract this spring, will return to Florida on Saturday, though he may not be in uniform and on the field for workouts until Sunday. The sides still haven’t ruled out the possibility of agreeing to a long-term deal before Opening Day, though Zimmerman can’t become a free agent until after the 2011 season.

“We were talking about it [Thursday]. We’re going to keep talking about it [Saturday],” team president Stan Kasten said. “That would be an end result both sides would like to see. We’re just not there yet, but we’re going to keep talking about it. If we can do it, we’ll do it.”

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