The Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann agreed to a two-year, $24 million contract today, a deal that buys out Zimmermann's final two arbitration years and locks him in at salaries of $7.5 million for this year and $16.5 million for 2015.
But before that deal was even discussed, Zimmermann and the Nationals talked about a long-term deal. During a phone conversation this afternoon, Zimmermann described those long-term contract talks as "preliminary" and said that he and the Nats were not close to reaching terms on a long-term deal, leading to the two-year deal that was finalized today.
"We were quite a ways off on the (long-term) deal, so about a week ago, the two-year deal was thrown around," Zimmermann said. "We liked the idea and the Nationals liked the idea, and it just kind of worked out. I think both sides are happy, and I'm happy to get it done with and out of the way and not have to worry about the arbitration process next year at all. Now we can just focus on baseball and getting the season rolling."
Last year, Zimmermann and the Nationals didn't end up agreeing to a one-year deal that avoided arbitration until he had already reported to spring training. The negotiating process between a player and the team can sometimes lead to disagreements on the player's value, but Zimmermann won't have to deal with any such issues anymore.
"It's gonna be nice (to have the arbitration process done with)," Zimmermann said. "We can always work on a multi-year deal now, and we can wait 'til after next year or even after the following year. Whenever. But we're locked in for two years, and I'm happy and thankful. Just want to thank (assistant general manager) Bryan Minniti and (general manager) Mike Rizzo and the Lerner family for working hard to get this done with and out of the way. Now we can go for that World Series ring."
Zimmermann said that he would prefer to wait until the end of the 2014 season before potentially starting up talks with the Nats on a long-term deal yet again. Some players don't like having contract talks ongoing during the regular season, and Zimmermann fits into that category.
"I don't need any more distractions than I already have," he said. "... (A long-term deal is) always a possibility. We just got this deal done, so we're not really worried about that right now. Starting to get ready for the season, but after next season we can talk again if they're interested, and we can see where things go from there."
The Nationals could face an interesting dilemma next winter if they feel a long-term deal with Zimmermann is unlikely - keep the righty on the roster for the final year of his contract and risk losing him as a free agent after the 2015 season, or trade him before the 2015 season begins, which could bring back quality pieces in return.
Keeping Zimmermann for 2015 would allow the Nats to maintain quality depth in their rotation, and if he signed elsewhere after the 2015 campaign, the Nats could receive a compensatory draft pick in return. Trading him would free up $16.5 million and open up another spot in the rotation.
Zimmermann said that he just started throwing off a mound back home in his native Wisconsin, and plans on heading down to Viera, Fla., around Feb. 1, more than 10 days before pitchers and catchers are due to report.
Until then, he hopes to get out ice fishing one more time. He's already been four times this offseason, and has fared pretty well, bringing in bluegills and walleyes.
Ah, the Wisconsin life.