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Zimmerman Avoids Arbitration, Signs One-Year Deal

The contract Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman signed late last night didn't satisfy the ultimate goal -- a long-term deal -- but at least it erased the most immediate fear. Because of the one-year, $3.325 million agreement, Zimmerman avoided an arbitration hearing, scheduled for today.

Zimmerman's 2009 salary, which includes up to $175,000 in incentives, represents a perfect suggested numbers the two sides offered for arbitration: $3.9 from Zimmerman, $2.75 from the Nationals.

All along, Washington General Manager Jim Bowden spoke about the importance of avoiding the hearing with its franchise player. During such hearings, the team builds its case for a reduced salary by harping on a player's shortcomings -- and in some cases, acrimony lingers long after. Bowden and Zimmerman's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, were both in Phoenix yesterday, site of all arbitration hearings.

This was the first year in which Zimmerman, 24, was arbitration-eligible. Though he remains under Washington's control until 2011, the team has long been trying to ink Zimmerman to a long-term deal.

Zimmerman, while earning $465,000 last season, batted .283 with 14 HR and 51 RBI. He spent much of June and July on the disabled list while recovering from a shoulder injury.

"Either way it was going to be resolved today," Manager Manny Acta said this morning, "but I'm glad that we were able to get an agreement with the guy. And not having to go through the arbitration hearing because it's not a good process."

It remains uncertain when Zimmerman will be back at the team's Viera, Fla., spring training facility. Originally, he was scheduled to fly tomorrow from Phoenix to Florida, and be ready to practice by Sunday. That timetable now could get pushed up a day, but as of this morning, Acta still wasn't certain.

When Zimmerman returns, it will mark his first official appearance with the team this year. When Washington's position players reported for spring training on Tuesday, Zimmerman, technically without a contract at the time, elected to wait.

With Zimmerman's signing, all of Washington's players are now under contract for 2009.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 20, 2009; 3:09 AM ET
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Next: The Strasburg Watch: 2009 Debut Is Today


This is the advantage of living four timezones west of DC... you find out Friday's news on Thursday night.

That is excellent news.

Posted by: wigi | February 20, 2009 3:28 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad they avoided arbitration but I was really, really hoping for a long-term deal.

Good for him though. Big difference between 465K and 3.3 million. He gets to buy lunch now.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 20, 2009 6:04 AM | Report abuse

Whew, that's a relief!!! Nobody wins in an arbitration hearing, and it's almost a certainty that the player involved leaves upon becoming a free agent. Now let's work on a long-term deal.

Posted by: NatsMan21 | February 20, 2009 6:17 AM | Report abuse

Great post Chico, as of 6:15, I can't find it anywhere else on the net.

Posted by: NatsMan21 | February 20, 2009 6:23 AM | Report abuse

Nah, I think its just business & most of the players can separate that out.

Example: Ryan Howard goes to arbitration in 2008 & signs a three-year deal in 2009.
Whew, that's a relief!!! Nobody wins in an arbitration hearing, and it's almost a certainty that the player involved leaves upon becoming a free agent. Now let's work on a long-term deal.

Posted by: NatsMan21 | February 20, 2009 6:17 AM

Posted by: chiefwj | February 20, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Wow, you are burning the midnight oil, Chico! Good news that they avoided arbitration. I'd like to see Zimm signed to a long-term deal, but from his perspective he could get a better long-term contract if he has a better year, I'd think.

Wonder where Zimmerman is going to buy his meal for the guys? (Boston Chicken has been done.)

That's funny! Scrolling up before submitting, I see that NatsNut had already suggested lunch.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 20, 2009 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Good news. Now we are ready for the season.

Posted by: cr8oncsu | February 20, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Good to have the last really important detail with the current roster nailed down. Let's play ball!

Posted by: AtomicOvermind | February 20, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Now, if they work things out with Odalis and ink something that looks like a reliable bull pen arm, the 2009 Nats look pretty good (in comparison to last year's club, at least). I am ready for April! If nothing else, the beer will be cold at the Park!!

Posted by: dfh123 | February 20, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Very glad they got this done. As it stands wasn't Shawn Hill the only person to go to Arb this year? I'm glad they were able to avoid that with Zim.

dfh - methinks (yeah... i said it) from listening to Stans comments on ODie that he's got two choices: report to camp by 2/22 or; be in violation of your contract. If he holds out past 2/22 they can choose to suspend him w/or/wo pay, but unless they release him he can't sign anywhere else. I do not think the team considers this an open negotiation.

Posted by: RicketyCricket | February 20, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed the two sides weren't able to lock up a long term deal, especiailly considering what our neighbors to the north have done this season in signing Markakis and Roberts to long term deals. :(

Posted by: Keenan1 | February 20, 2009 7:47 AM | Report abuse

... I'm like NatsNut, NatsMan21 et al. I'm very happy Zim's current situation has been resolved. While I want him to be in a long-term contract, I wouldn't quibble with 3.3 mil for this year; that seems reasonable to me.

... I wonder who it is - the team or Zim himself - who wants to avoid the long-term. Could it be that the team wants to avoid having to pay, or could it be that Ryan wants to hang on, year-to-year, until he can sign a huge long-term deal?

Posted by: natscanreduxit | February 20, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Great News!! Hopefully they continue to work on a multiyear deal and don't wait until next year at this time to dance again.

And, with this little piece of business out of the way, I think the Nats are free and clear to begin the transition to a new GM. I'm not thinking Rizzo though. I'm thinking bring someone in from the outside. I've long defended Bowden, but sometimes you do have to make a clean break - justified by performance or not - this is one of those times. Sorry Jim, but I'm done. I disapprove of the blind hate that has been aimed at you so often, but just like a Field Manager is often fired for player performance, so must a General Manager be fired for organizational performance. It's not about hate, its not about bad trades, or moves not made, its about operating excellence. If the organization is not performing with excellence after 4 years of stewardship then its time to step down.

Posted by: natbisquit | February 20, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

New, hirsute post up at the Bog.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 20, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

My opinion is that Zim's guys (advisors/agents) are taking the biggest gamble on not taking a long-term deal.

Some factors are economic, but most are based on performance such that Zim has to return to 2006 form.

Here are some factors just presented by the Fed Governors that they now expect unemployment to worsen and the recession to be longer unless current economic stimulus shows significant results hence baseball Free Agent salaries will probably be worse next year which salaries could decline overall next year.

Zim is arbitration eligible for 2 more years and he could go through the same process and next year may be looking at $3.5 to $4.5 million.

I would think that if Zim took a Pedroia, Tulowitzki, Braun type of deal he could have signed a guaranteed $6+ million 6 year deal so by not signing a long-term deal he essentially left $2.6 mill on the table this year.

To go through annual arbitration and bet on being a free agent after the 2011 season with diminshing contracts as was seen this year is a gamble.

His agents should look at the old saying of a bird in the hand is better than 2 in the bush.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 20, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

The Nats are sooooo lame! Last year they had the nerve to refuse to pay rent on the stadium, and for sure they were putting an inferior product on the field. I'm generally a sucker for the home team, so-to-speak, but I won't support the Nats until they spend big money on the product, on players that can compete with the better teams in the NL. Not one t-shirt, cap, or game ticket will I buy until the Nats payroll skyrockets- the owners owe the fans as much, and I am voting with my dollars!!!

Posted by: kmm88 | February 20, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

$3.3 million is about half of what Johnson (who never plays), Young (not even full time), and Kearns (big disappointment) get.
Based on these guy, Zimmerman should be getting $8 million.
What gives?

Posted by: jsori | February 20, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

"Big difference between 465K and 3.3 million. He gets to buy lunch now." With that kind of money he could take the entire team out to lunch, and at Fogo de Chao none the less. He most certainly deserves it, especially after having to be the face of such a pathetic franchise for four years. At least he has some support now.

Posted by: futbolclif | February 20, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

"Based on these guy, Zimmerman should be getting $8 million.
What gives?"
It's a union shop, and compensation is tied largely to seniority. When you think of baseball salaries this way, they make a lot more sense.

Posted by: Scooter_ | February 20, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Tony Gwynn, baseball coach for San Diego State, has organized a round robin tournament with some historically black schools that will be televised by MLB this weekend. Of particular note, the current phenom and

anticipated #1 draft choice for our beloved hometown nine, Steven

Strassburg, pitches for SDS. As most readers of these pages know, he struck out 23 in a college game last year,

and was the only amateur on our Olympic Team.

MLB shows the schedule as SATURDAY SDS vs Bethune-Cookman @ 5:00 PM and SDS vs Southern @ 9:00. Don’t know which game Strassburg pitches but it’s worth checking out.

Thanks for the wonderful job you do.

Let’s play two!


Posted by: SlowPitch63 | February 20, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

JSori - Are you kidding me? Unless Nick Johnson has a breakout healthy year and the same for DYoung and Kearns, all of these guys will be lucky to see anything close to the $5 mill Bobby Abreu got and it will probably be closer to 1/2 that or less.

Outside of the Yankees and whoever signs ManRam, no teams have spent the money on Free Agents.

The Pedroia deal for a Rookie of the Year and MVP showed what the market really is.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 20, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info, SlowPitch. Would that be airing on the new MLB Network, then?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 20, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

GoingGoingGone, I'm fairly certain that jsori was referring to the amounts of money that the players he named will in the coming year based on existing contracts.

Posted by: Scooter_ | February 20, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Nice scoop Chico!

It's good to hear they got this done in the middle of the DR player-to-be-named-later scam.

Nothing sinister here. As Ryan says, its just baseball business. Ryan and his agent are biding their time. If 2009 is a good year, they are in much better position to cash in.

Let's hope Ryan really breaks out this year.

Posted by: nattydread1 | February 20, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Good work, Chico - this seems like the best reasonable outcome for all involved. The complications of Zimm's down year last year and the falling economy probably really made long-term negotiations complex, but signing a one-year deal and punting a long-term decision is far, far preferable to taking FotF to Arb and arguing "he sucks" for 90 minutes.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | February 20, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

First thanks for keeping this and NFA filled with your insight and humour over the Winter. I didn't post much because between rehab and pain killers I always seemed to be two or three days and several hundred posts behind.
Yes, the games are on the new MLB cannel, 213 for Direct TV viewers.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | February 20, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

This makes sense for everybody, given the questions after his abbreviated season. Each side is taking a risk, but can make a decision after what is, one hopes, a full and productive season.

Glad this is out of the way for now. Don't need any more distractions.

Posted by: Meridian1 | February 20, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Great to have the FotF inked. There is no way he wanted to sign a long term deal after a disappointing season by his standards last year. I think we can all look for a rebound season and a long term deal signed by next season with better numbers to back his cause. With AD protecting him in the order and with a healthy NJ and company, things will be much better this season. IF they can stay healthy, this club can and should be expected to be the most improved team from last season by a substantial margin. You can look forward to many pleasant surprises in the coming months...who knows what they may bring. Smile, it's about time.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 20, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Chico - since you took on the beat I've been with you on every story with the exception of this one. No one likes to be told they're not worth what they think - but it happens every day.

There will be no long term deal for Zman (vs. Zmann) until he gets his numbers up so his worth increases. The continual harping on a long term deal will not make one happen any faster, because if it did - he'd have one.

So, enough of this topic already. Time for some baseball, and enough of the business of baseball!

Posted by: dand187 | February 20, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, SlowPitch, will watch for the program. Always a pleasure to "see" you here or on NFA. Hope that all has gone well with your knee surgeries and recovery.

dand, my own impression is that Chico is reporting on a timely development that is of interest to Nats fans rather than harping on a long-term deal. But that's just me.

Also, new post(s) up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 20, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Strasburg is pitching for SDSU tonight with NO TV coverage. SDSU vs. Southern will be televised tomorrow night on MLB Network, but NO Strasburg! You can't tell me MLB Network couldn't have switched their coverage to show Strasburg pitching.

Posted by: Keenan1 | February 20, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

According to the SDSU schedule pdf, today's game is at 2 p.m. rather than tonight. That said, one thing that I've noticed is that the MLB Network schedule seems to be a moving target. What is actually airing at any given time does not always correspond to the MLB Network site's posted schedule for that day or to my cable provider's programming guide.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 20, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

So it might be worth checking out the MLB Network this afternoon (or perhaps there's some tv rights issue that we don't know about for today).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 20, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Or make that this evening, since it's 2 Pacific time. D'oh! Stop me before I Litella again.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 20, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

We've tried, 1a. Oh, how we've tried.

Posted by: Scooter_ | February 21, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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