Nats, Zimmerman agree to deal, avoid arbitration

Updated: February 20, 2009, 12:21 PM ET
Associated Press

VIERA, Fla. -- Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and the Washington Nationals agreed to a $3,325,000, one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.

Zimmerman was the last player in the major leagues scheduled for an arbitration hearing. His was to take place Friday in Phoenix, which is why he missed Washington's first full-squad workout of spring training Thursday.

He was the last Nationals player without a contract in place for the coming season.

"He's the face of this franchise, so it's totally different when he's here with us," manager Manny Acta said. "We can't wait to get him here."

Zimmerman planned to be at the team's camp Saturday and speak to reporters then.

He and the Nationals met at the midpoint of their arbitration figures: Zimmerman had submitted $3.9 million, while the Nationals had countered with $2.75 million.

The agreement includes performance bonuses of $75,000 for 500 plate appearances, and $50,000 each for 550 and 600 plate appearances.

"We've continued to talk about a multiyear (contract). We were talking about it yesterday; we're going to keep talking about it tomorrow," Nationals president Stan Kasten said. "That would be an end result both sides would like to see. We're just not there yet. We're going to keep talking about it. If we can do it, we'll do it."

This was the first time Zimmerman was eligible for arbitration. He made $465,000 last season, when he batted .283 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs while limited to 428 at-bats because of a left shoulder injury.

"He means an awful lot. He's had a terrific start to his career. A couple bumps here and there, but a terrific start," Kasten said. "We have high hopes for him having a big-time career."

Overall, players went 2-1 against clubs in cases that went before an arbitrator. Florida second baseman Dan Uggla ($5.35 million) and Washington right-hander Shawn Hill ($775,000) received their figures, while Tampa Bay catcher Dioner Navarro ($2.1 million) was awarded the club's proposal.

Players finished with a winning record for the first time since 1996, when they were 7-3.

"It's a very small sample," Kasten said. "I don't think there are any conclusions to be drawn from that."

The three hearings matched the record low, set when owners had a 2-1 advantage in 2005. Owners hold a 280-207 margin in cases that have gone to hearings since arbitration began in 1974.

Zimmerman was taken by the Nationals with the fourth overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft out of the University of Virginia and made his big league debut that September.

In 2006, his first full season, Zimmerman hit .287 with 20 homers and 110 RBIs and finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Florida's Hanley Ramirez. He has a career batting average of .282 with 58 homers and 258 RBIs.

Asked what he expects from Zimmerman this season, Acta said: "Twenty-five-plus (homers) and 100 RBIs, and hopefully more people other than me are watching him play at third base this year and he can get a Gold Glove."

Acta noted that Zimmerman has put in time working in the offseason with new Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein.

"He's making some adjustments that are going to make him better," Acta said. "He's eliminating a few of the extra body movements that he had before and this can only help him, because it's going to help him see the ball better, recognize pitches better and everything else will be better."

Game notes
LHP Odalis Perez, Washington's opening day starter in 2008, hasn't arrived at camp even though he agreed to a contract that would pay him $850,000 if he makes the major league club. The mandatory reporting date is Sunday, after which players are subject to discipline. Kasten said he doesn't know what would happen if Perez does not report by then. "It's odd. It's a first for me. I don't know what's behind it," Kasten said. "I haven't talked to the player, and I haven't talked to the agent, so I don't know what the thinking is." ... RHP Jorge Sosa also hasn't reported; Acta said Sosa is still going through the process of getting a visa. ... Kasten considers it likely that the Nationals could bring in new players via trade before the season begins. "We have, frankly, surpluses in some areas, and that's something I haven't been able to say since I've been here," he said. "I would expect heavy trade talk between now and opening day."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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