Nats' Zimmerman avoids arbitration
Third baseman agrees to one-year, $3.325 million deal with Washington
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3.325 million deal early Friday morning. With Zimmerman's signing, the Nats have all 69 players in big league camp under contract.
Zimmerman's arbitration hearing was scheduled for Friday afternoon in Phoenix. He was asking for $3.9 million, while Washington was countering with $2.75 million. Zimmerman and general manager Jim Bowden were already in Arizona when the deal was struck. Zimmerman is expected to be back at Space Coast Stadium on Saturday morning, and he will talk to the media at that time.
"All of our players are signed," team president Stan Kasten said. "As it turned out, it was largely routine, the whole arbitration season -- nothing too unexpected. Everything fell into place where they showed good results. I'm happy we are through that part of it and can now pay attention to the field."
Before Zimmerman signed, the Washington Post indicated in a blog Tuesday that the fourth-year third baseman would not be in camp without a contract and the relationship between the two parties could be strained. Asked if there is friction between Zimmerman and the Nationals, Kasten said: "Only the one I've read about, none that I've ever seen in real life or actuality or that Ryan knows about or that we know about. I don't know where that came from. It's just nonsense."
In the meantime, Zimmerman and the Nationals are trying to work out a long-term contract, and Zimmerman's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, is optimistic that a deal could be reached by Opening Day.
"The Nationals and Ryan have a good relationship," Van Wagenen said. "We are working hard to get a deal done. The Nationals made it clear that they want Ryan, and Ryan expressed he wants to be with the Nationals."
Zimmerman is coming off an injury-riddled season, playing in only 106 games in 2008 because of left shoulder and right hand injuries. He hit .283 with 14 home runs and 51 RBIs. However, Zimmerman had 201 RBIs over the previous two seasons.
Manager Manny Acta is expecting Zimmerman to be one of his run producers and win his first Gold Glove at third base in 2009.
"He is the face of this franchise," Acta said. "It's totally different when he is here with us. I can't wait to get him here. I expect 25 [home runs] and 100 RBIs. Hopefully, more people other than me [are] watching him play third base this year so he can get a Gold Glove."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.