Zimmerman, Nationals move closer to long-term extension

VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals moved closer to hammering out a contract extension late Saturday night, resolving some “last significant issues” that were holding up a deal, general manager Mike Rizzo said.

The Nationals are hopeful that a deal can be announced Sunday.

“We don’t have a deal done, but we’ve made significant progress tonight,” Rizzo said shortly before 11 p.m. “We feel good about it and optimistic that we can reach an agreement, but there’s some small details that we have to iron out through tonight and tomorrow. Hopefully, tommorrow (morning) we’ll have something more concrete to announce. But we feel good and optimistic that Zim is going to be a Washington National for a very long time.”

Rizzo refused to divulge specifics of the progress, but based on what Zimmerman said earlier Saturday, the only roadblock that had to be maneuvered was no-trade protection that would ensure that he remained in D.C. for the length of the contract. Zimmerman has said several times in the past couple of days that he would be willing to continue talking to the Nationals as long as major issues like length and term of the deal were satisfactory.

Zimmerman had placed a 10 a.m. Saturday deadline, coinciding with the start of the team’s first full-squad workout at spring training, for negotiations to be finished and then extended the deadline to later in the day. The third baseman said he wanted to focus on preparing for the upcoming season and not have his contract talks with the team become a distraction for his teammates.

Rizzo said he had worked with Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, on “a couple of the main stumbling blocks that we came to agreement” on. Zimmerman is seeking to extend the five-year, $45 million deal he signed before the 2009 season that is scheduled to run through 2013. Van Wagenen met with Rizzo earlier this week in Viera before departing the Nationals’ spring training base Thursday evening.

“Hopefully, we’ll iron out all the details that we have to to put this thing to bed and we’ll announce it,” Rizzo said. “I don’t see any major stumbling blocks. It’s more detail-oriented work that needs to be done.”

Shortly before Rizzo met with the media in the Space Coast Stadium press box, Van Wagenen released a statement via email that read: “While there are still important aspects to work through, we bridged multiple important gaps on many major parts of a contract. Nothing is done until it is done, but both sides are optimistic that an agreement can be reached.”

In the same statement, Zimmerman said: “While nothing is finalized, I am confident that we can reach an agreement.”

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