VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman's self-imposed Saturday deadline to have a contract extension in place is moving closer, and it appears any chance the Nationals have at locking up their starting third baseman beyond 2013 hinge on a new deal containing a no-trade clause.
"The point of me signing this deal is to be here, not to sign a deal that's team-friendly to have it with another team," Zimmerman said Friday morning.
Zimmerman, whose current five-year, $45 million deal runs out after the 2013 season, talked with Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo on Friday morning in the clubhouse, but he said their discussion pertained to Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun's successful appeal of his 50-game suspension. Zimmerman's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, met with Rizzo again Thursday night to try to hammer out an extension.
"I think there's still things that need to be worked on on both sides," Zimmerman said. "We need to do some stuff, they need to do some stuff. So we'll see. Obviously, Brodie talked to (Rizzo) yesterday and I think they've been talking. Like I said, I stay out of most of this stuff until it's decision time. We'll see. I think we've come a long way since back when we started. So I don't know."
Zimmerman's preference is to remain in Washington, where he was the Nationals' first draft pick in 2005 after the Expos moved from Montreal. If he signs an extension, his 10/5 rights - meaning a player with 10 years of major league service, including five with his current club - could block trades. But Zimmerman sees other benefits to coming to an agreement sooner rather than later.
"Getting this done would make them not have to worry about it for this year or next year or next offseason," he said. "It kind of gives us a core group of guys in place for a long time and they can forget about me and start worrying about the younger guys who are going to need to be taken care of in a couple of years."
The Nationals haven't traditionally been willing to give blanket no-trade protection in their contracts, but did so in December 2010 when they signed outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million deal as a free agent. But left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who signed a five-year, $42 million extension last month, didn't receive a similar clause.
Zimmerman sounded as if the Nationals and his camp are still haggling over big-picture portions of a proposed extension, and no-trade protection could be among them.
"The big things have to be taken care of - the years and the money and that stuff, the big things in the contract," he said. "There's obviously little things and language that take a little bit longer to get it taken care of. But if we can get the most big things done by Saturday, it doesn't mean I have to sign the contract by Saturday. But ... the pressing issues - of which there are a few things - need to be done by Saturday."
Does Zimmerman think a deal can be hashed out by the time full-squad workouts commence Saturday morning?
"If it happens, I'm thrilled," he said. "If not, I've got two years left here still and I'm excited for this year. I think we've got a great team and we've got a chance to do something special, something that's never been done with this organization. I think all of us are kind of ready to get to work and get going."