The two sides talked late into the night, making enough progress for Zimmerman to extend a Saturday deadline that coincided with the start of full-squad workouts. The 27-year-old third baseman wants to get a deal done or shelve the talks for now so his contract situation won't be a distraction to the team, which has high hopes in the NL East this season.
"We don't have a deal done yet but we made significant progress," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in the press box at Space Coast Stadium. "There are small details we have to iron out ... but we feel good and optimistic that Zim will be a Washington National for a very, very long time."
Zimmerman has two seasons left on a $45 million, five-year contract but wants to remain in Washington for the long haul. The main sticking point appeared to be the slugger's desire for a no-trade clause, or at least some assurance that he wouldn't be dealt by the only team he's played for in the big leagues.
"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," said Zimmerman's agent, Brodie Van Wagenen. "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."
Like Rizzo, the agent was confident that a deal would be finalized.
"While there are still important aspects to work through, we bridged multiple important gaps on many major parts of a contract," Van Wagenen said. "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."
The Nationals want to lock Zimmerman up so he can play alongside No. 1 draft picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
"All along, all I've wanted is to be able to stay with the Nationals, which I consider my hometown team, and help the franchise become a winner while also being compensated fairly," Zimmerman said in a statement. "I'm from Virginia, I was drafted by the Nationals and I've seen this organization make great progress since I signed here. I want to see it through to the ultimate goal of winning a World Series."
Zimmerman was the team's first draft pick after the Montreal Expos moved to Washington in 2005 and quickly became the face of the franchise. He's been an NL All-Star, while also capturing Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
Last season, Zimmerman was limited by injuries to 395 at-bats. He hit .289 with 12 homers, 21 doubles and 49 RBIs.
"Hopefully we'll iron out all the details we need to put this thing to bed," Rizzo said. "I don't see any major stumbling blocks, just more detail-oriented work that needs to be done."