Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo says he hopes to avoid an arbitration hearing with Jordan Zimmermann, the only remaining arbitration-eligible National yet to agree to a deal for his 2013 salary, and could be open to multi-year-deal talks with Ian Desmond and Zimmermann.
The Nationals reached deals with six of their seven arbitration-eligible players on Friday. All but Craig Stammen received one-year deals. Zimmermann was eligible for arbitration for the second time in his career this winter; he was awarded $2.3 million as a Super Two-eligible player following the 2011 season. Friday afternoon was the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players’ representatives to exchange salary figures for next season.
SFX, the agency which represents Zimmermann, is seeking $5.8 million for next season for the 27-year-old right-hander, but the Nationals have countered with $4.6 million. The two sides are talking, Rizzo said Saturday, with the Nationals hoping to avoid an arbitration hearing, a contentious process that most teams generally prefer to avoid by striking deals.
“We’ve proved in the past that we will (go to a hearing) if we have to,” said Rizzo, speaking after Saturdays’ New York Baseball Writers’ Association Dinner where Bryce Harper and Davey Johnson received their end-of-season awards. “We certainly don’t want to. He’s a long-term part of our organization and you hate to go to arbitration with him. But sometimes you have to if the numbers aren’t matched up and you can’t, and they see it one way and we see it the other, you have a third party break the tie.”
Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, both important reasons for the Nationals’ success last season and vital pieces of their future, both seem like ideal candidates for multi-year extensions. Both are under team control until 2016. And if both continue to performan well, their salaries will continue to rise in arbitration. Desmond, who had a breakout 2012 season, will early nearly $3.7 million more next season after being eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career this winter.
As Friday’s deadline loomed, Rizzo said it’s often easier to first get the one-year deals done for the following season and then consider long-term deals.
Rizzo said he spoke with Desmond, 27, during last season about the idea of a contract extension. But Desmond asked to table it until the offseason, wanting to concentrate on the season. Rizzo said he broached the subject of an extension with Zimmermann before the 2012 season but hasn’t revisited the idea with him since.
Rizzo said he is open to extensions for both but didn’t say it would definitely happen. “Any long-term deal that makes sense for us to keep component players, we’re definitely open minded about,” he said.
Stammen was the only arbitration-eligible Nationals player to agree to a deal beyond one-year, signing a two-year $2.25 million contract that will buy out his first two years of arbitration. The Nationals control Stammen’s rights through 2016, and Rizzo said it was ideal to lock up the versatile, right-handed reliever, who is just 28.
“Often times, at that point of a reliever’s career, when they’re first-time eligibles, and you’re talking that kind of money, it’s nice to give them some,” Rizzo said. “It’s the first time in his career he’s really had some security. And we thought he earned it and the numbers made sense for us. It gave us a little cost-certainty. It gave him a little security.”