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Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who averaged 14½ wins and more than 200 innings in his past four seasons for the Washington Nationals, on Sunday reportedly agreed to terms with the Detroit Tigers on a multiyear contract.
Zimmermann, 29, was expected to be the first pitcher to undergo Tommy John surgery – his was in 2009 – and later earn a nine-figure contract. The previous high for a Tommy John patient was $97.5 million over five years by Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals. The deal – pending a physical – is for around $110 million over five years, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports. CBS Sports first reported Zimmermann and the Tigers had come to terms.
The Tigers traded away free agent David Price last summer and lost Max Scherzer to free agency last winter, leaving their rotation thin beyond Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. General manager Al Avila had estimated the Tigers were two starters short. The steady Zimmermann likely would slot between Verlander and Sanchez, with Daniel Norris, Buck Farmer and Matt Boyd the candidates for the back end.
In his first months leading the Tigers’ baseball operations department, Avila has traded for closer Francisco Rodriguez and outfielder Cameron Maybin. A remodel, if not an overhaul, was necessary for the Tigers, who, after four consecutive AL Central titles, finished last in 2015. The major problem was a lack of pitching – Tigers’ starters were last in the league in ERA and their relievers were second to last.
In a free-agent class loaded with starting pitchers, and in a winter in which some of the wealthiest franchises were short a starter or two, Zimmermann was rated behind Price and Zack Greinke, and generally ahead – or in the neighborhood – of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, John Lackey and Mike Leake, among others.
Zimmermann’s numbers were slightly off in 2015, when he experienced increases in ERA (3.66), batting average against (.264), WHIP (1.205) and home runs per nine (1.1) over 2014, when he was fifth in the National League Cy Young voting. He was seventh in that vote the season before. He remained among the league leaders in walks per nine innings, however, and threw more than 200 innings for the second time in three seasons, and so in free agency asked interested clubs: Do you believe the body of work or the recent turn downward?
Over seven seasons in Washington, Zimmermann perhaps will be remembered best for two starts – his last of the 2014 regular season and the one that followed in the postseason.
On the final day of 2014, Zimmermann no-hit the Miami Marlins, the first no-hitter in Washington Nationals history. Six days later, in the second game of the division series, Zimmermann and the Nationals led the San Francisco Giants, 1-0, with two outs in the ninth inning. When Zimmermann walked Joe Panik with his 100th pitch, Nationals manager Matt Williams removed Zimmermann, replaced him with Drew Storen, and the Giants responded with two hits to tie the score. The Giants beat the Nationals with a run in the 18th inning.
He entered free agency with a 70-50 record and 3.32 ERA in 178 career starts.