The two sides had been working on something long-term, but with nothing in the cards they instead agreed to a shorter contract that buys out Zimmermann's two remaining years of arbitration. The new contract does not keep the Nationals and Zimmermann from still talking about a new deal, but it does make it less likely anything new will be done this offseason.
For Zimmermann's part, he says that a year from now he may be willing to revisit talks and would be happy to sign a contract that "works out for both sides." For now, he appears content to work with the newly completed contract and focus on the upcoming season.
A trade after next year may be another option if Washington does not see him remaining with the club long-term. But the way his contract is structured -- he will make $7.5 million in 2014 and $16.5 million in 2015 -- may reduce the return the Nationals would receive in a deal.
Washington has had the intention of signing both Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond to long deals, but has so far failed at that task. It's important to keep in mind that they will soon need to also talk about an extension with Stephen Strasburg and potentially could look to lock up Bryce Harper early as well.
It's easy to see why the Nationals would like to lock in Zimmermann. He has developed into one of the best pitchers in the league over the past few seasons, posting ERAs of 3.18, 2.98, and 3.25 in the last three years. The 2014 season may have been his best yet as, in addition to the 3.25 ERA, he had a 1.09 WHIP and a career-high 161 strikeouts.