Zimmerman firm on Saturday deadline for contract talks

VIERA, Fla. - Agent Brodie Van Waganen is in Nationals camp, fueling speculation that he’s trying to get something done on the Ryan Zimmerman contract front by Saturday, the deadline the third baseman has imposed on a possible long-term deal. Zimmerman reiterated Wednesday that he will shut down talks with the club if a deal isn’t reached by then.

“It’s not fair for all these guys here to have to worry about that every day,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not fair for me to answer questions about that every day. We’ve got a good team and everybody has to worry about baseball. Everyone’s here already and they’re working and that’s what it needs to be about. It needs to be about that, and not whether this gets done or doesn’t. ... If it gets done, great. If it doesn’t, I’ve got two years left and we’ll play it out.”

Zimmerman, the team’s second highest-paid player behind outfielder Jayson Werth, has two years remaining on the five-year, $45 million extension he signed in April 2009. He’s made no secret of his desire to remain in Washington, but general manager Mike Rizzo has yet to hammer out a long-term deal to his liking. The sides have talked for more than a year, though not recently, and there’s been no hint of what kind of terms Zimmerman is seeking or what the Nationals might be offering.

“I think I’ve made it pretty clear that this is where I want to play for a long time,” Zimmerman said. “It’s just a matter of having both sides get something that works and makes sense. It’s not an easy thing to do; these things are hard. It doesn’t happen a lot in the game. Hopefully we can get something done. I’d really like to do it.”

The fact that the Nationals and Zimmerman are both interested in getting a deal done seems to improve the chances that an extension is signed. Zimmerman, the Nationals’ first draft selection after arriving in D.C. for the 2005 season, often speaks glowingly of the team’s front office and ownership.

“Everything we’ve ever done ... is positive,” Zimmerman said. “We have a great relationship. I’m very lucky to be in an organization who has someone like Rizz and the Lerner family. They’re great people and there’s never been anything negative. It’s just a matter of getting something that works for both sides.”

The only thing working against Zimmerman may be the fact that he’s dealt with two long-term injuries during his short time in Washington. In 2008, he missed almost two months with a left shoulder problem that was triggered by a headfirst slide into second base. Last year, he needed surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle and was limited 101 games, his fewest in a full season.

But Zimmerman is still a career .288 hitter with 128 homers and 498 RBIs who averages 25 homers and 95 RBIs over the course of a full season. Because the Nationals have beefed up their pitching staff, Zimmerman is eager to contribute offensively without the distraction of contract talks. That’s the reason for his Saturday deadline, the first scheduled full-squad workout of the spring.

“That’s baseball time. It’s time to go,” he said. “We’ve had the whole offseason to do this stuff. Now it’s time for baseball.”

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