Zimmerman, Nats still talking, getting “creative” on no-trade provision

VIERA, Fla. - Ryan Zimmerman’s representatives continue to discuss a contract extension with the Nationals even after a Saturday morning deadline for a resolution passed, and the third baseman said a no-trade clause is “the only thing” that stands between himself and a deal with the team.

“Something creative to ensure me that I will be here, because that’s the reason I’m signing the deal here,” Zimmerman said Saturday afternoon after the Nationals had completed their first full-squad workout of spring training. “That’s basically the only thing left.”

Zimmerman, who had earlier put a deadline of the start of today’s workout as the deadline for a deal to be completed, said he would let the process play out for the remainder of the day in hopes of getting an extension to his current five-year, $45 million contract that takes him through 2013.

As he spoke to reporters in the Nationals’ dugout, Zimmerman said agent Brodie Van Wagenen and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo were engaged in discussions. Van Wagenen spoke with Rizzo before leaving Viera on Thursday night, and the two have maintained contact since as Zimmerman’s self-imposed Saturday morning deadline neared and then passed.

“We’ve gone back, we’ve given them one other creative solution to try to bridge this gap,” Zimmerman said. “Today is the day, Saturday - it’s either going to get done (or) it’s not going to get done. Both sides are working to try to get over the last little couple hurdles. ... We’re both trying to be creative. Mike and Brodie are talking now. It’ll be done, either yes or no, today. We’ll have closure either way. ... By the end of today we’ll know, yes or no.”

Rizzo, speaking to reporters about a half-hour later, said, “We’ve ... come a long way and bridged a big gap from the beginning of this to where we are currently, but we’re not there yet. This is a very complicated, lucrative contract that we’re discussing and we’re not quite at the finish line yet. I’m still hopeful we can come to an agreement, but we’re not there yet.”

The general manager would not go into specifics about the negotiations, but said he understands why Zimmerman wants to get the contract hammered out so he can focus on preparing for the 2012 season.

“Players want to put that stuff in the backburner,” Rizzo said. “He’s a ballplayer; it’s not his job to worry about this stuff, it’s my job and his agent’s job to worry about negotiating a contract. That’s typical of most players. They want to talk baseball, they want to think baseball and we need Ryan Zimmerman to be concentrating 100 percent on baseball.”

Even though Zimmerman wants a hard and fast deadline of today, Rizzo seemed willing to continue talks even if an extension can’t be hashed out on that timetable.

“If we can’t come to an agreement by the end of today, or whatever the deadline is, I’m certainly going to continue to discuss the contract because I want to sign Ryan Zimmerman,” Rizzo said.

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