"It's close," Ryan Zimmerman said when asked about the contract extension he and his agent are discussing with the Washington Nationals during an interview with ESPN.com's Tim Kurkjian this morning as part of ESPN's Baseball Tonight's Goodyear Express Bus Tour of the Nats' Viera, Florida Spring Training home. "I think these things go back and forth," the 27-year-old third baseman continued, "both sides obviously have to agree and there [are] a lot of little things and a lot of big things that have to be agreed upon, but we've come a long way in the last month or two, so I'll be happy to see what happens in the next twenty-four hours." The Nats' Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning infielder, who's coming off an injury-shortened season in which he had surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle, has set a Saturday deadline to discuss an extension.
As the Washington Times' Amanda Comak (@AComak) wrote on Twitter today, when Davey Johnson was asked about the start of tomorrow's workouts being the deadline Zimmerman's set to agree on an extension, the 69-year-old skipper joked, "'... well maybe I'll postpone the workout.'"
ESPN.com's Mr. Kurkjian wrote on Twitter (@Kurkjian_ESPN) after the interview that, "Ryan Zimmerman just told us that he is close to a contract extension with the Nationals." (MLB.com's Bill Ladson @washingnats spoke to Zimmerman too and wrote on Twitter that Zim said the two sides hadn't talked yet today and weren't close 'yet.'") In discussing the deal the two sides are reportedly trying to work out, ESPN.com's Mr. Kurkjian said, "I have been told that they have agreed on the years, it's six more years, and they have agreed on the money, but Ryan Zimmerman wants to spend his entire career in Washington, so he needs a no-trade provision of some sort. He needs to be written in to the last two years of the contract so he has faith that he's not going anywhere and that's a really encouraging sign that he wants to stay here a long time."
Zimmerman has two years left (2012-13) on the 5-year/$45M dollar extension he signed in 2009. As others have noted, if he stays in Washington he'll have no-trade rights at the end of the 2015 season as any player with 10-year's service time in the majors who's spent five years with the same team does. The concern, as Zimmerman explained to reporters today including NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, is that the no-trade language guarantees he's agreeing to a team-friendly deal with the Nationals not another MLB team if he were to be traded.
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) wrote on Twitter this morning that he's, "Hearing it will come in around $18M per." Six more years as Mr. Kurkjian says, after/absorbing the two left on his current deal, at $18M per (AAV?) and it's at least possible to guess at what the contract extension could end up looking like (if their reports are accurate) should they get the deal done.
• Other Interesting Notes:
ESPN.com's John Kruk said he talked to Nats' pitching coach Steve McCatty about the pitcher Kruk identified as his "X-factor" for the 2012 season, 25-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, and McCatty told the former major leaguer and ESPN analyst, "'Kruk-y, you're going to see something that we weren't allowing him to use last year and that's his split-changeup.' He said it's back in the arsenal and with the other stuff he has, he said [Zimmermann] has a chance to be one of the more-dominant pitchers in this division."
"I think he's a star," Kruk continued, "Ready to break out this year and I think he's going to have a big year for the Nationals." In an interview late last season after he'd been shut down for the year, Zimmermann, who'd thrown 161.1 IP in his first full-year back from Tommy John over which he had a 3.18 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 31 walks (1.73 BB/9) and 124 K's (6.92 K/9), talked about adding the change to his repertoire. "I hope I can figure it out come this offseason," Zimmermann said at the time, "I found a pretty good grip that I feel comfortable with the last month here, and I'm excited to start throwing all offseason."
"I was just monkeying around with the ball one day," Zimmermann explained when asked how he'd discovered the grip, "and it felt pretty good when I was throwing it." Asked why he felt he needed to add a change to his already-impressive arsenal, the former University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers' right-hander said, "Every pitcher needs a changeup, I think, unless you're coming out of the bullpen, but every starter should have one and I was lucky enough to get away with not really having one this year."
• LINK: ESPN.com's Tim Kurkjian's notes from his visit to Space Coast Stadium.