02/26/12 4:37 PM EST
Zimmerman signs six-year extension with Nats
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
Zimmerman is one of six players -- along with Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp -- signed through 2019. The move means that Zimmerman will spend the rest of his career in a Nationals uniform.
"Since I've arrived here in 2006, he is the epitome of a lead-by-example guy," said general manager Mike Rizzo on why he wanted to sign Zimmerman long term. "If I said it once, I said it a million times to the other younger players: 'Just watch the way he prepares.'
"He is not verbose. He doesn't have to scream and yell to get his point across. It all starts with performance on the field, but it also trickles in to respect in the clubhouse, what he does in the community with his foundation and that sort of thing."
Prior to agreeing to terms, Zimmerman had two years worth $26 million left on a contract he signed in 2009. That deal does not include a no-trade clause, and Rizzo said he doesn't have any intention of trading Zimmerman within those two years.
"We didn't go through this exercise and sign Zim to a six-year plus with an option to trade him within the next two years," Rizzo said. "With Mike Rizzo as the GM of the Nationals, he will not be traded within the next two years."
|Ken Griffey Jr.||CIN||$116.5M||2000-08*|
Zimmerman wouldn't have signed this new deal without getting the no-trade clause, which was the final hurdle in the negotiations.
"It's a relief. It's a lot of stuff to work out. It's a big commitment. Things like that don't get done quickly," Zimmerman said. "Both sides worked tirelessly to get this stuff done. Now we don't have to worry about it anymore."
"There would be no deal without that commitment from ownership down to the general manager, down to everybody within the organization," Zimmerman's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, said. "That is a mutual goal and a desire that has been achieved."
Zimmerman was selected in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, and he made his Major League debut that same year at the age of 20. By the following season, Zimmerman became the most popular player in franchise history.
"Ryan Zimmerman is an exceptional talent and individual, said managing principal owner Theodore N. Lerner, speaking on behalf of the Lerner family and the Nationals' ownership group. "He is a role model on the field, in the clubhouse and in the community. He has been the face of the Washington Nationals since baseball was returned to Washington. We are absolutely thrilled that Ryan will continue to help us build our team in a winning direction."
In his seven-year big-league career, Zimmerman has won two Silver Slugger Awards, a Gold Glove Award and made one All-Star appearance. Also a clutch performer, Zimmerman has eight career walk-off homers.
Zimmerman said he knew when he started his big league career he wanted to be a member of the Nationals for life.
"They gave me every opportunity to come up early. They put a lot of trust in me. They kind of just threw me in there," Zimmerman said. "I think even back when we had no ownership -- Jim Bowden was the GM -- I'm drafted as a 20-year-old and I really had no idea what kind of player that I am. I get called up in September.
"They threw me right into the fire. They kind of trusted me from the very beginning. That relationship had gotten stronger throughout the years. I think when you have something like that in any professional sport, it's worth it to respect them back and have a good relationship. Ever since the beginning, I wanted to be here."
Teammates Tyler Clippard and Ian Desmond both said signing Zimmerman was another indication how much Washington's front office wants to win.
"Zim has been our centerpiece since he came up to the big leagues. He was our top prospect," Clippard said. "And when I got here, he was the man. I think it's important to an organization to show loyalty to a guy that has been loyal to them and has done so many things for the organization on and off the field. It just says a lot about what kind of management we have and the direction that we are going."
"It's just another indication that the organization is moving in the right direction," Desmond said. "... To see Zim happy at home and not have to worry about that anymore, it's going to be nice. It's good that the deal got done. It's kind of a good-faith-type thing. I think it would have gotten ugly if the deal didn't get done. I'm happy for him. We definitely need him."
Zimmerman originally had a self-imposed deadline of 10 a.m. ET on Saturday. Zimmerman said he didn't want to talk about his contract after Saturday, as he didn't want to become a distraction.
Around 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, Zimmerman told the media that Van Wagenen had come up with a creative solution to bridge the gap between the two sides. Zimmerman then said he wanted the deal to be done by the end of Saturday.
"Both sides are working to try to get over the last ... couple of hurdles," Zimmerman said. "We are both trying to be creative. It will be either yes or no, today. We'll have closure either way. It's something 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.
"Like I said all along, we can concentrate on baseball and not have you guys worry about it anymore, and -- more importantly -- my teammates and myself."
Van Wagenen was seen talking to Rizzo at the Nationals' Spring Training complex on Wednesday. The two sides also talked Thursday and Friday without coming to a deal.
Zimmerman is coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season in which he hit .289 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs in 101 games. He missed significant time because of an abdominal injury.
Van Wagenen and the Nationals have been in serious discussions about an extension for Zimmerman since the Winter Meetings in December.
"This has been in the works for a long time," Rizzo said. "It seems like forever. It was a complicated contract to get done. But it was so important that we couldn't back-burner it."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.