Nationals Rumors: Washington eyeing Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond extensions

Drew Hallowell

The Nationals could look to extend two of their key players this winter.

Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond are both open to signing extensions with the club and Pete Kerzal of MASN believes the team has been speaking with the two young stars about a possible deal, though the Nationals remain quiet on the state of such talks.

Both players were drafted and developed by Washington and will become free agents after the 2015 season. Zimmermann led the National League in wins with 19 last season, posting a 3.25 ERA over 213 1/3 innings to finish seventh in the Cy Young voting. Desmond hit .280/.331/.453 over 655 plate appearances for the Nationals in 2013 and won his second consecutive sliver slugger award as the league's best hitting shortstop.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo would not give away much speaking to Kerzal-

"Those are discussions that will take place in private and in due time. Those are guys that we want to have as part of the organization for a long time. Those are things that we'll discuss later on."

Despite the team's desire to keep Zimmermann and Desmond, extension talks are complicated by the increasing cost of other key players like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Both Strasburg and Harper are represented by Scott Boras, who typically steers his clients away from extensions prior to free agency. They will both become more expensive even without extensions, however, since both players are primed to receive top arbitration salaries in the coming years. Any deal with either Zimmermann or Desmond will have implications for Washington's negotiations with their other young stars.

Kerzel notes that Rizzo doesn't believe either player will sign an extension before spring training begins, but he also warns that such talk might be a strategy meant to ease the pressure on the two sides as they work out a deal. Even if the team doesn't reach an extension, both players are in line for significant raises for the 2014 season through arbitration. Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors projects a $10.5 million salary for Zimmermann and a $6.9 million salary for Desmond, strong earnings for players under arbitration, but hardly what either would command on the open market. If the Nationals can use their remaining team control to earn a discounted rate on several free-agent seasons with either player, they are not likely to pass up that chance.

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