Zimmerman must wait for multiyear deal

Zimmerman must wait for multiyear deal

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman continue to have a good relationship, but they are not close to agreeing to a multi-year deal, according to a baseball source on Friday.

In fact, the two parties haven't had serious dialogue about a contract since Spring Training. During that period, Washington vowed not to break the bank, but it was willing to give Zimmerman a contract that was similar to Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who signed a six-year, $31 million deal last January. Sources indicated back then that Zimmerman wanted a bigger contract.

Zimmerman's existing deal ended up being renewed, and he made $465,000 in 2008.

The source said both sides are not expected to talk about a contract during next week's Winter Meetings because the Nationals are trying to improve their Major League club, one that lost 102 games this past season.

It has been widely reported that the Nationals are trying to convince free agents Mark Teixeira and/or Adam Dunn to sign with them. The source did say that Washington considers Zimmerman one of its top priorities this offseason, and the two parties are likely to talk after the Winter Meetings.

Zimmerman, 24, is arbitration-eligible for the first time, but the source would not guess how much money the third baseman would be seeking.

Zimmerman, agent Brodie Van Wagenen, general manager Jim Bowden and team president Stan Kasten were not available for comment.

Back in October, Zimmerman talked about how he wanted to get a deal done.

"I don't know if my agent has talked to [Bowden] and those guys," Zimmerman said at the time. "I would doubt that we would go to arbitration. I don't see why we wouldn't be able to agree on something. I don't know what they think, but our side thinks it shouldn't be that tough to come to an agreement. We'll see what happens.

Hot Stove

"The first three years is their time and, I guess, the next three years is my time. Ultimately, I would like to sign a deal and be in D.C. It's just going to be a matter of whether the time is right and all the figures are right or stuff like that. It's an exciting time for me and hopefully for the Nationals, too."

Zimmerman is clearly the best player on Washington's current roster. He is a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman and has proven he can drive in runs. He had over 90 RBIs during his first two full seasons in the big leagues.

However, Zimmerman played only 106 games in 2008 because of shoulder and hand problems, but managed to hit .306 after the All-Star break.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.