Zimmerman, Nationals Agree to Five-Year, $45 Million Deal

Ryan Zimmerman isn't going anywhere after coming to terms with Washington on a five-year, $45 million contract.
Ryan Zimmerman isn't going anywhere after coming to terms with Washington on a five-year, $45 million contract. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 20, 2009

Until at least 2013, Ryan Zimmerman will be under contract with the Washington Nationals -- the team that drafted him, and the team that has now affirmed his role in its future. Zimmerman and the Nationals have agreed to a five-year, $45 million deal, two industry sources said last night. A news conference is expected today.

The agreement ends years of negotiations between the club and Zimmerman's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, and signals Washington's interest in retaining the young core of its team. Zimmerman has always been identified as its most important part. Drafted in the first round in 2005, Zimmerman became a full-time starter just one year later. Though he has never been an all-star or won a Gold Glove, the Nationals feel both are in his future.

Asked earlier in the weekend what a long-term deal with Zimmerman would mean, Manager Manny Acta said: "It will mean a lot for the kid, the franchise and our fans. . . . And he deserves it. It will give him an opportunity to relax and just continue to do what he's been doing for us."

Negotiations had persisted despite General Manager Jim Bowden's resignation at the end of February and, more recently, a publicly stated deadline. When Zimmerman agreed in March to a one-year, $3.325 million contract, both the third baseman and team officials expressed a desire to strike a multiyear contract before Opening Day. When Opening Day passed without an agreement, however, Zimmerman wanted to put things on hold; he disliked the idea of negotiations interfering with the season.

But quietly, Van Wagenen and team president Stan Kasten negotiated.

The five-year deal begins immediately, overriding the earlier contract. Without a new deal, Zimmerman would have been eligible for free agency after the 2011 season.

Coming off an injury-interrupted season, Zimmerman had reason to delay the signing of a long-term deal. But despite career lows in homers and RBI in 2008, Zimmerman saw no benefit in waiting. Plus, his sustained strong play in the final months of 2008 offset many concerns about his worth.

"It just gets to the point where you think, 'How much [money] do you really need? How much do you need, and do you really want to be here?' I think that's the most important thing," Zimmerman said earlier this year. "The whole point of being a free agent and having a negotiating power is to play where you want to play. And I don't really need to go into that. I'm happy here."

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