The first of the big free agent dominoes has fallen, and it’s Jordan Zimmermann, who is soon to be an ex-National.
The Tigers have reportedly agreed to terms with the right-hander on a deal that would pay Zimmermann about $110 million over the next five years. The contract is, of course, pending a physical, a process that should be completed later this week before the Winter Meetings convene in Nashville.
MLBTradeRumors.com had predicted that Zimmermann could be in line for a deal worth $126 million over six years. CBSSports.com was the first to report that Zimmermann and the Tigers had agreed to terms. FOXSports.com reported late last night that the two sides were engaged in substantive talks on a deal, as well as the terms of the contract this afternoon.
Zimmermann will be the first pitcher who has gone through Tommy John surgery to receive a free agent contract in excess of $100 million. The Nationals reportedly offered Zimmermann a five-year extension worth $105 million before the 2015 season, which he turned down.
It’s really no surprise that Zimmermann would choose the Tigers, considering the 29-year-old is a native of Auburndale, Wis., and attended Wisconsin-Stevens Point before the Nationals picked him in the second round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. It was widely believed that Zimmermann sought to return to his Midwestern roots, and both the Tigers and Cubs were believed to be logical suitors given their geography.
Because Zimmermann was extended and rejected the $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals, they will receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds for the Tigers signing the pitcher. The Tigers will lose thier second-round pick for obtaining Zimmermann’s services; their first-round pick, the ninth overall selection, is protected.
Zimmermann went 70-50 with a 3.32 ERA in 178 starts over seven seasons with the Nationals. His rookie season of 2009 was cut short by elbow problems that necessitated Tommy John surgery on Aug. 19. He returned in just 12 months, but was on a strict innings and pitch count in 2010, when he started seven games in the majors after making 10 minor league rehab starts. In 2011, his first full season back from Tommy John, Zimmermann went 8-11 with a 3.18 ERA in 26 starts, taking a seat in September when he had reached a team-mandated innings cap.
Over the next four campaigns, Zimmermann assumed the role of rotation workhorse, never pitching fewer than 195 2/3 innings in 2012 and reaching a career high of 213 1/3 in 2013. He went 12-8, 19-9, 14-5 and 13-10 over that span, leading the National League with 19 wins in 2013 and 33 starts in 2015. An All-Star selection in 2013 and 2014, he finished seventh and fifth, respectively, in the NL Cy Young voting in those seasons.
On Sept. 28, 2014, the final day of the regular season, he pitched the first no-hitter in Nationals history, a 1-0 victory over the Marlins that was saved by a spectacular diving catch by Steven Souza Jr. The image of Zimmermann with his arms outstretched as Souza’s grab protected the no-hitter is one of the most memorable in the team’s history in D.C.
Zimmermann will join a Tigers rotation that includes right-handers Justin Verlander, an AL Cy Young and MVP winner in 2011, and Anibel Sanchez.
The Nationals host the Tigers in interleague play from May 9-11, so there’s a chance that Zimmermann will pitch again at Nationals Park in 2016, only in road grays rather than home whites or reds.