- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 25, 2012

VIERA, Fla. — Nearly 13 hours after Ryan Zimmerman’s initial deadline for contract negotiations to be wrapped up, the third baseman and the Washington Nationals still had yet to come to an agreement on an extension Saturday night.

But both sides were confident enough in the progress they made throughout Saturday that they’d be able to flush out the details and announce a long-term deal on Sunday.

“We don’t have a deal done yet but we’ve made significant progress tonight,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo around 11 p.m. Saturday night. “We feel good about it and optimistic that we can reach an agreement.

“There’s some small details we have to iron out through tonight and tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow [morning] we’ll have something more concrete to announce. We feel good and optimistic that Zim’s going to be a Washington National for a long, long time.”

Moments before Rizzo met the media to deliver those words, Zimmerman and his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA, sent out statements that echoed the general manager’s thoughts. The deadline Zimmerman, who still has two years left on his current contract, had set for Saturday would not be held to firmly. With neither side foreseeing any more “major stumbling blocks” in the negotiation, all parties felt comfortable enough to continue moving forward.

“All along, all I’ve wanted is to be able to stay with the Nationals, which I consider my hometown team, and help the franchise become a winner while also being compensated fairly,” Zimmerman said in a statement.

“While nothing is finalized, I am confident that we can reach an agreement that will accomplish those things,” he continued. “I’m from Virginia, I was drafted by the Nationals and I’ve seen this organization make great progress since I signed here. I want to see it through to the ultimate goal of winning a World Series.”

Zimmerman extended his initial deadline earlier Saturday when Van Wagenen brought what the third baseman termed a “creative solution to try and bridge the gap,” to the Nationals and negotiations continued.

The biggest hurdle appeared to be the issue of a no-trade clause. Zimmerman was adamant that one be included in the deal 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 Saturday afternoon. “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.

Both Rizzo and Van Wagenen seemed confident late Saturday night, though, that there weren’t any issues they couldn’t work through to come to terms on an agreement with the franchise cornerstone.

“We have made significant progress on an extension for Ryan that would ensure he plays for the Nationals for a long time, which has always been Ryan’s goal,” Van Wagenen said in a statement. “We are working on a structure that will allow the team to continue to add talent and establish a winner, which is another goal of Ryan‘s.

“While there are still important aspects to work through, we bridged multiple gaps on many major parts of the contract. Nothing is done until it’s done, but both sides are optimistic that an agreement can be reached.”

Rizzo referred to the remaining issues as “detail-oriented,” and said the two sides made progress on the main hurdles that had been holding them back the past few days. He declined to say what discrepancies exactly they’d overcome.

“We’re hopeful we’ll iron out all the details that we have to put this thing to bed and to announce it,” Rizzo said.

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