"It's a good day, a real upbeat day," D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said during an interview this afternoon on MLB Network Radio with former Nats' GM Jim Bowden and Jeff Rickard. The reason for the current general manager of the Washington Nationals' enthusiasm? The Nationals announced on Sunday that they'd signed 27-year-old '05 1st Round pick Ryan Zimmerman to a six-year/$100M dollar extension which, when added to the remaining two years and $26M dollars left on his last deal, locks him up through the 2019 season with an option for the 2020 campaign. "It's not every day you get to sign kind of a corner-stone player to a long-term deal," Rizzo said, "He was happy about it. We're happy about it and it couldn't have gone better today."
"You start with a big chasm in the middle of you as most negotiations do," the Nationals' GM explained when asked about the difficulty of working through the year-long negotiations which resulted in today's extension, "And you slowly and kind of pain-stakingly whittle it down to where you believe the real market is and where the real deal lies, and then you kind of work on the small details, the minor details and work out a deal, and there comes along a stumbling block here or there where you really don't have a consensus on getting 'this' point of the deal done, how important is this part of the deal to the player, how important is it to the team, and those are the things you have to work around. But Zim was a pleasure to work with and he made it perfectly clear by his asks and his flexibility that he wanted to be in D.C. for the long-term and gave us a vehicle that we could make that work."
The Nationals showed faith in Zimmerman, even coming off an injury-shortened 2011 campaign, Rizzo explained, because they have a long history with the seven-year veteran. "When we started this negotiation about a year ago," Rizzo said, "He had just won back-to-back Silver Sluggers, he was a Gold Glove winner, and he's been our third-hole hitter and the first draft pick that was ever picked from this organization by Jim [Bowden], and [he's] a terrific guy on and off the field, a 'no-maintenance employee' as I call him and a guy that there's risk on both sides. He has risks that he's leaving some money on the table because if he's the Ryan Zimmerman of 2010 he gets a lot more than whatever the AAV of his deal turned out to be and if he gets hurt and doesn't perform then we've got some risk."
"So, you share the risk and you share the reward," the Nationals' GM said, "but he was a guy that I felt we needed to get control over." The one thing the Nats wanted to avoid, according to what Rizzo said in the interview, was going into the season with question marks about the face of the franchise. "I didn't want it to go into the season," the third-year GM said, "and be a decision where if he's not going to sign an extension you've got to really start making the decisions on trading the player or not trading the player and I think it would turn into a distraction for the ballclub and we're at a point now where we don't need distractions."
The decision to give then-31-year-old outfielder Jayson Werth a no-trade clause last winter when Washington signed him to a 7-year/$126M dollar deal, led to the Nationals giving one to Zimmerman in his extension, Rizzo admitted. "Well, you know, you open the door on your no-trade policies and when you give it to one player that you're trying to attract to the organization you've got to give it to the guy you've grown and developed. It was an issue, that, and there [were] a couple of other issues down at the end, but all along, you have two parties that really want to make a deal and when that's the case there's usually a deal done."