February 2012

[Update] Nats, Zimmerman agree to contract extension

The Nationals and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman have agreed to terms on six-year $100 million extension with a full no-trade clause. There is also a club option for $18 million. A press conference is expected to be held later today at Space Coast Stadium.

Zimmerman is one of six players –Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun 2020, Matt Kemp are the others — signed through 2019.

The team had until the end of Saturday to get a deal done with Zimmerman, who hinted on Friday afternoon that he wanted a no-trade clause in his contract. Zimmerman has two years left on his current deal worth $26 million.

“It’s a relief. It’s a lot of stuff to work out. It’s a big commitment. Things like that don’t get done quickly,” Zimmerman said before having his press conference. “Both sides worked tirelessly to get this stuff done. Now, we don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

On Saturday night, general manager Mike Rizzo said there were no major stumbling blocks to complete a deal.

“We don’t have a deal done yet, but we have made significant progress,” Rizzo said Saturday. “We feel good about it and optimistic that we can reach an agreement, but there are some small details that we have to iron out through tonight and tomorrow.

“Hopefully, tomorrow, [by] the time we see [members of the media], 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, very long time.”

Zimmerman is considered the face of the franchise. He was selected in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and became the most popular player in franchise history. In six years, he has won two silver slugger awards, a gold glove and made one All-Star appearance.

“Zim has been our centerpiece since he came up to the big leagues. He was our top prospect,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “And when I got here, he was the man. I think it’s important to an organization to show loyalty to a guy that has been loyal to them and has done so many things for the organization on and off the field. It’s just says a lot about what kind management we have and the direction that we are going.”

Said Shortstop Ian Desmond, “It’s just another indication that organization is moving in the right direction. … To see Zim happy at home and not have to work about that anymore, it’s going to be nice. It’s good that the deal got done. It’s kind of a good faith-type thing. I think it would have gotten ugly if the deal didn’t get done. I’m happy for him. We definitely need him.”

Zimmerman originally had a self-imposed deadline of 10:00 a.m. ET on Saturday. Zimmerman said he didn’t want to talk about his contract after that day, for he didn’t want to become a distraction to the team.

Around 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, Zimmerman told the media that his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, had come up with a creative solution to bridge the gap between the two sides. Zimmerman then said he wanted the deal to be done by the end of Saturday.

“Both sides are working to try to get over the last … couple of hurdles,” Zimmerman said. “We are both trying to be creative. It will be either yes or no, today. We’ll have closure either way. It’s something to ensure me that I will be here because that’s the reason I’m signing the deal. That’s basically the only thing left.

“Like I said all along, we can concentrate on baseball and not have you guys [the media] worry about it anymore and — more importantly — my teammates and myself.”

Van Wagenen was seen talking to Rizzo at the Nationals’ Spring Training complex on Wednesday. The two sides also talked Thursday and Friday without coming close to a deal.

Zimmerman is coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season in which he hit .289 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs across 101 games. He missed significant time because of an abdominal injury.

Van Wagenen and the Nationals have been in serious discussions about an extension for Zimmerman since the Winter Meetings last December.

“We have made significant progress on an extension for Ryan that would ensure he plays for the Nationals for a long time, which has always been Ryan’s goal,” Van Wagenen said in a statement. “We are working on a structure that will allow the team to continue to add talent and establish a winner which is another goal of Ryan’s.

“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 and Ryan can focus his energies on preparing with his teammates for the season.”

Nationals, Zimmerman still talking contract extension

The Nationals are still trying to reach an agreement with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on a contract extension. Zimmerman had a self imposed deadline of 10:00 a.m. ET on Saturday to get a deal done.

However, the team now has until the end of the day to get a deal done with Zimmerman, who hinted once again that he wants a no-trade clause in his contract. Zimmerman has two years left on his current contract.

“We’ve gone back and we’ve given them one other creative solution 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 … couple of hurdles. We are both trying to be creative. It will be either yes or no, today. We’ll have closure either way.

“It’s something to ensure me that I will be here because that’s the reason I’m signing the deal. That’s basically the only thing left.”

Zimmerman said he doesn’t want to talk about his contract after Saturday because he doesn’t want to become a distraction to the team.

“Like I said all along, we can concentrate on baseball and not have you guys [the media] worry about it anymore and — more importantly – my teammates and myself,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, was seen talking to general manager Mike Rizzo at the Nationals’ Spring Training complex on Wednesday. The two sides also talked Thursday and Friday without coming close to a deal.

Zimmerman is coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season in which he hit .289 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs across 101 games. He missed significant time because of an abdominal injury.

Van Wagenen and the Nationals have been in serious discussions about an extension for Zimmerman since the Winter Meetings last December.

“We are still working toward an agreement,” Rizzo said. “We don’t have an agreement at this time. We’ve come a long way and bridged a big gap from the beginning [of the negotiations] to where we are currently, but we are not there yet. This is a very complicated, lucrative contract that we are discussing. We are not quite at the finish line yet. I’m still hopeful that we could come to an agreement, but we are not there yet.”

Nats’ Zimmerman wants no-trade clause

Although he has two years left on his current contract, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman hinted that he would like a no-trade clause and would like to spend the rest of his career with the Nationals.

Zimmerman spoke to general manager Mike Rizzo on Friday, but the conversation was about Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, who had his 50-game suspension overturned on Thursday. The Nationals have until Saturday morning to get a deal done with their third baseman. Zimmerman said he doesn’t want to discuss a new deal after that because he doesn’t want to become a distraction to the team.

Asked he felt he would get a deal done by Saturday morning, Zimmerman said, “There are still things that need to be worked on both side. We need to do some stuff, they need to do some stuff. We’ll see. … I think we have come a long way from back where we started, so you never know.”

Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, was seen at the Nationals’ Spring Training complex on Wednesday talking to Rizzo. The two sides also met Thursday afternoon without coming close to a deal.

“I’m the same like I was before,” said Zimmerman, who was asked Friday morning if he was close to an extension.

Van Wagenen left Viera on Thursday night. However, there is still a 24-hour window to get a deal done. If not, look for Zimmerman to play out the rest of his current contract. Zimmerman is coming off an injury-plagued season, hitting .289 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs in 101 games. Zimmerman missed significant time because of an abdominal injury.

“The big things have to be taken care of: The money, that kind of stuff, the big part of the contract,” Zimmerman said. “There are obviously little things and language that take a little bit longer to be taken care of. But if we can get most of the big things done by Saturday — I don’t have to sign the contract by Saturday. We have to have the pressing issues … that need to be done by Saturday.

“The point of me signing this deal is to be here, not to sign a deal that is team friendly, to have it with another team. That’s the whole point of the deal.”

Nats’ Rizzo hoping to sign Zimmerman to extension

Although Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman doesn’t want to talk about a contract extension after Friday, it will not stop general manager Mike Rizzo from talking to Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, about a new deal.

“It won’t stop me from talking,” Rizzo said.

Van Wagenen was seen at the Nationals’ Spring Training complex on Wednesday talking to Rizzo. It’s not known how much progress has been made when it comes to Zimmerman’s contract. Zimmerman has two years left on his current deal.

Van Wagenen is expected to leave Viera, Fla., on Thursday night.

Asked Thursday morning if he was confident that he could get a deal done with Zimmerman, Rizzo said, “I don’t want to gauge my feelings on it. We are working extremely hard at it. … I’m hopeful. … [If we sign him to an extension], it would take something off our plate for the future. We have Ryan for two years. It would put a punctuation on Zim, at least, knowing that he would be with us for the long term.”

Nats’ DeRosa ready to have injury-free season

Nationals infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa arrived in Spring Training on Wednesday morning, determined to make a comeback after missing most of the last two years because of a left wrist injury.

Manager Davey Johnson was one person who wanted DeRosa to make his comeback in Washington. In fact, Johnson acknowledged that he called DeRosa during the offseason after it was learned that first baseman Chris Marrero would not start the 2012 season on time, after tearing his left hamstring while playing winter ball. Johnson managed DeRosa during the World Baseball Classic in 2009.

Reuniting with Johnson wasn’t the only reason DeRosa joined the Nationals.

“I really enjoyed my time with him,” DeRosa said about Johnson. “To be honest with you, [playing in Washington] is close to home. It was big. I was out in [San Francisco] the last two years with the family on the east coast. I wanted to get close to home as I could – give myself the best chance to win, be on a young exciting team. It seemed like a good fit.”

It will be interesting to see what kind of role DeRosa plays for Washington. He is expected to be a reserve first baseman and make occasional starts in the outfield, and also at second and third base. With Mike Cameron retiring earlier this week, DeRosa could find himself in a platoon situation in the outfield.

“I’m pretty comfortable playing wherever,” DeRosa said. “I always go back to the coach I had with the Braves, Glenn Hubbard. He said, ‘When in doubt, be an athlete.’ And that’s what I’ve always tried to do. I’m not going to fly by Carlos Beltran in the outfield and do the things that certain guys do out there. I can catch it and I can hit the cutoff man.”

The last time DeRosa played often in a season was in 2009 when he played for the Cardinals and Indians.

During that same year that DeRosa hurt the left wrist. After two surgeries, he continued to have problems with the wrist until he returned to action last September with the Giants.

“… After going through all I went through, it seemed to have settled down,” DeRosa said. “I guess the scar tissue in there seemed to have calmed down and allowed me to do my job without pain. That was the toughest thing. You can make up for lack of stability or lack of mobility or whatever you have to deal with. But it was just that knifing pain every time you went to swing, it kind of shut me down.”

DeRosa said the wrist feels great, but admits the big test will come once the season starts.

“It remains to be seen. The offseason is not the season,” DeRosa said. “It’s not grinding every day, it’s not hitting seven times a week. So I need these six weeks to get ready.”

Nats reporting to Spring Training

Excluding the catchers, all of the Nationals’ position players reported to Spring Training with the exception of Mark DeRosa and Xavier Paul, and DeRosa is expected to be in camp Wednesday.

Position players are not expected to report to camp until Thursday.

Reliever Henry Rodriguez is the only pitcher who has yet to report to camp, but was given an excused absence. He is expected to be in camp on Wednesday.

Nats pitchers, catchers have first workouts

Nationals pitchers and catchers worked out for the first time Tuesday and — by all accounts – it was everything manager Davey Johnson was looking for.

Before things got started, Johnson had a meeting with his players at 9:45 a.m. ET. He told his pitchers to throw only fastball and change ups. There wasn’t a need to throw breaking balls or try to impress the skipper on the first day. Johnson also told the players if they had a problem, always go to him or the coaches for answers.

“I want to institute things that I’m comfortable with,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to stress a guy’s elbow or shoulder too much,” Johnson said. “Those are the kind of things that I need to get across. They are all going to play. I know I have 10 starters and [some] are going to piggy back [the other starters]. They are going to get their innings and the relievers will follow them at least through the first two rotations.”

Left-handers Gio Gonzalez and Sean Burnett were unable to have bullpen sessions in front of Johnson. Instead, they threw at Space Coast Stadium with pitching coordinator Spin Williams observing. Gonzalez and Burnett had to deal with the Nationals production staff, who were shooting video for the Jumbotron at Nationals Park.

“It was a good camp even though we were interrupted a little bit with the photographers for the Jumbotron, whatever,” Johnson said. “I didn’t get to see Gio, but Spin gave a good report on him. He was throwing well. Burnett was OK and now they are done with that. We can now concentrate what we have to do.”

During one bullpen session, Johnson was seen talking to right-hander Stephen Strasburg. It marked the first time since 2010 that Strasburg wasn’t rehabbing his elbow.

Last year, Strasburg spent most of the season recovering from elbow reconstruction. According to Johnson, Strasburg was happy he could to be throw a bullpen session like the rest of his teammates.

“I asked, ‘It’s nice to be one of the boys, Isn’t it?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ rather than be a rehabber. He is just one of the guys. He is and he likes that.”

Nats’ Marrero working hard to get back on field

Nationals first baseman Chris Marrero is walking without a limp, but he is not expected to play in a game until after the All-Star break because of a torn left hamstring he suffered while playing the for the Licey Tigers of the Dominican Winter League last November.

Marrero, who is considered a backup first baseman, hurt the hamstring stretching for a thrown ball. Marrero arrived in camp Tuesday morning and was able to jog, play catch and hit the ball off a tee.

“The hamstring is coming along. I have to do the therapy, do what I have to do. I’m not trying to speed it up and aggravate it again,” Marrero said.

Marrero, a first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, made his Major League debut this past season, hitting .248 with 10 RBIs and playing solid defense at first base.

Nats’ Rizzo proud of his staff

A few hours after the Nationals’ minor league system was named the best in Major League Baseball by Baseball America, general manager Mike Rizzo sent this e-mail to his scouting and player development staff.

From: Mike Rizzo
Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2012 3:02 PM
Subject: Congratulations

Guys,

A few minutes ago it was announced that Baseball America has ranked the Washington Nationals farm system #1 in baseball. I want to congratulate each and every one of you because this honor belongs to you.

I am well aware that this achievement is the direct result of a Scouting & Player Development staff that is the best in baseball. I want to personally express my thanks for the grueling hours, endless miles, and huge workload you’ve taken on. Your dedication and commitment is reflected in this accomplishment!

I am very proud and enormously appreciative. It is an honor to work with each of you and I look forward to sharing great successes together. You have my respect and my thanks.

Mike

Mike Rizzo
EXECUTIVE VP AND GENERAL MANAGER

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