WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 19: Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals hits a game-winning grand slam in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on August 19, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Nationals won the game 8-4. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
So the pre-workout deadline for the Washington Nationals to sign 27-year-old infielder Ryan Zimmerman to an extension came and went Saturday morning, then "definitely at some point today either way" turned into maybe tomorrow, but the latest reports tonight have both sides saying that they're positive a deal will be announced at some point on Sunday...
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters tonight that any major stumbling blocks had been cleared and what remained were minor details that still had to be worked out.
Both sides said they were confident they were close to agreeing on a deal that will keep the seven-year veteran, (selected with the franchise's first draft pick upon relocating to the nation's capital in 2005) in a Nationals uniform for a long, long time. In an email sent to reporters including MLB.com's Bill Ladson on Saturday night, Zimmerman's agent, Brody Van Wagenen wrote that though, "nothing is done until it is done," they are confident they are close to a deal and, "... 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."
How the Nationals would be able to afford the talent they've stockpiled in recent years was a topic of discussion this winter with writers wondering how a team rumored to be interested in free agent first baseman Prince Fielder was going to be able to pay the 28-year-old slugger, Jayson Werth, Zimmerman and eventually Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and the other top picks they'd collected in the last few seasons. Though they eventually bowed out of the Fielder market, the Nationals were reportedly willing to give the Scott Boras' client a no-trade clause as they'd done for the first time with Jayson Werth the previous winter. The Nationals' willingness to give out no-trade clauses also came up as they pursued free agent lefty Mark Buehrle.
A no-trade clause or some sort of protection for Zimmerman was reportedly one of if not the final major stumbling blocks that had to be cleared this weekend. The entrenched third baseman was said to be willing to sign a team-friendly deal if it meant staying in Washington, but reports yesterday said that since he was willing to he wanted some guarantee that the Nationals and not some other team were the ones getting a discount on the former Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning, All-Star and so-called Face of the Nats' franchise who'd played through the bad times and wanted to be around for the good days the manager, GM and players all think lie ahead. As several reports yesterday noted, Zimmerman would automatically qualify for no-trade protection after the 2015 campaign if he remained in Washington as a player with 10 MLB seasons played at least five of which were with one team, so the concern was protection for the four seasons between now and then.
Jayson Werth surprised some when he mentioned the no-trade clause in his 7-year/$126M dollar deal during his introductory press conference last winter. It was the first one the Washington Nationals had given out. Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters at the time, as quoted in Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore's 12/15/10 article entitled, "Jayson Werth has a full no-trade clause", about, "... how difficult it was to give one to Werth," and the general manager stressed that, "... he will not make a habit of handing them out,":
"'It was very difficult, one of the last sticking points that we had,' Rizzo said. 'I'd rather not have a no trade clause, because it's another impediment to roster construction.'"
They had been willing to offer one to Werth, the GM explained, because he was seen as an "elite" free agent and it was necessary to get a deal done. When the topic came up again at this past December's Winter Meetings, Rizzo said he knew Mark Buehrle (the first pitcher the Nats' targeted before eventually trading for Gio Gonzalez and signing Edwin Jackson) wanted a no-trade clause and, "'I guess we've opened that door," the GM told reporters including NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, "'We prefer not to, and they'll be a huge part of the negotiation. But for the right player and the right fit, I think you have to be open-minded and flexible enough to at least think about it and talk about [it].'"
Along with Werth, Fielder and Buehrle, Ryan Zimmerman apparently meets the criteria that make him "the right player and the right fit" for some sort of no-trade protection. In seven MLB seasons since he debuted at the end of the '05 campaign following just 67 games and 269 plate appearances at Class-A Savannah and Double-A Harrisburg in which he'd put up a .336/.377/.564 line with 22 doubles and 11 HR's, Zimmerman has a .288/.355/.479 line with a 162-game average of 41 doubles and 25 HR's though he's missed significant time in two seasons ('08 and '11) dealing with a labrum tear and a torn abdominal muscle. At some point tomorrow the Nationals will reward Ryan Zimmerman for what he's done so far in his career with a lucrative long-term extension.