Since being drafted fourth overall in 2005, Ryan Zimmerman has evolved into a cornerstone of the Nationals and one of the game's best all-around players. Zimmerman signed an extension in 2009 that will delay his free agency until after the 2013 season, and he'd like to stay in Washington even longer. Speaking to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, the 26-year-old said he doesn't want to be a player who leaves via free agency after years of losing.
"That’s the dire, last-minute decision if I didn’t think we were going to win," Zimmerman said. "I have a lot of confidence that we’re really close to becoming good.... I don’t think we’re as far away as everyone thinks.... That’s kind of another one of the reasons I want to be here for so long."
While there's no rush for either side to work out a new contract yet, Zimmerman suggested he'd test free agency if an extension wasn't in place by the end of the 2012 season:
"If you get to two years left [before] free agency, you can talk. But if nothing works out, if you have one year before free agency, you might as well play your year out and see what happens.... I think the whole point of the baseball system is, you put your time in, you stay with a team, and you get rewarded with being able to be a free agent."
Zimmerman says he'd prefer not to negotiate during the regular season, though a source indicated to Kilgore that the Nationals would open extension discussions sometime in the coming months. For his part, Zimmerman says he "would take care of it whenever they want to take care of it." Of course, negotiations likely won't be easy. Several baseball people who spoke to Kilgore believe Zimmerman could command an extension worth approximately $200MM.