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Roster review: Jordan Zimmermann

Oct 17, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 27

How acquired: 2nd round pick, 2007 draft

MLB service time: 4 years, 154 days

2013 salary+bonuses: $5.35 million

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2014 and 2015, free agent in 2016

2013 Stats: 32 GS, 213.1 IP, 192 H, 81 R, 77 ER, 19 HR, 40 BB, 161 K, 1.088 WHIP, 19-9, 3.25 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 2.4 WAR

Quotable: “He’s a horse. He’s probably our No. 1 guy on the staff.” — Jayson Werth, on Jordan Zimmermann

2013 analysis: Having already established himself as one of the most consistently effective starters in the majors last year, Zimmermann set out to take things up a notch this year. And he succeeded, firmly entrenching himself as one of the best pitchers in the game, period.

Zimmermann tied the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright for the NL lead with 19 wins. Yes, that was in part a byproduct of good run support. But it also was a byproduct of Zimmermann’s ability to pitch deeper into games than he had in any previous season. He established a new career high with 213 1/3 innings, an average of 6 2/3 innings per start. (Only Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee and Matt Harvey averaged more among qualifying NL starters. Only Wainwright, Kershaw and Lee went 7-plus innings more times.)

For his efforts, Zimmermann was named an All-Star for the first time in his career, though he was forced to sit out the game due to a neck strain that actually proved a lingering issue for him. He never officially missed a start, but he was given nine days off around the All-Star break and then struggled through back-to-back rough outings in late-July before righting his ship and finishing strong.

2014 outlook: There’s no reason to doubt Zimmermann will put forth another 32-start, 200-inning season in 2014, with an ERA right around the 3.00 mark. And there’s no reason to doubt he’ll do it again in 2015 and for several more years after.

Which is why one of the biggest questions the Nationals face this winter is whether they can sign their bulldog pitcher to a long-term extension. Zimmermann has two more years of arbitration eligibility, so he can’t go anywhere until after the 2015 season. But make no mistake: Now is the time to try to lock him up, before his price completely skyrockets into nine-figure territory and before he enters his walk year (when players typically prefer to become free agents and see what the market has to bear).

Zimmermann still won’t come cheap — he certainly could command five years and $75 million — but given his importance to the Nationals’ rotation, both now and down the road, he sure seems worth it.

  1. nats128 - Oct 17, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    JZ had 21 games of 2 runs or less including 7 with 0 runs. Kershaw had 26 games of 2 runs or less including 10 with 0 runs.

    JZ is headed towards greatness.

    • ArVAFan - Oct 17, 2013 at 9:17 AM

      Oh, good. So years from now I’ll be able to donate the game-used balls I have from his complete games to Cooperstown and take a nice tax deduction. And in the meantime, enjoy a lot of good, solid pitching. Bulldog. It would have been nice for him to get 20 wins this year: maybe next year if Rizzo’s off-season moves work out better than last year’s.

  2. NatsLady - Oct 17, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Off-topic but still interesting. I found this link where you can see how all our guys are doing in winter ball in the various leagues. Zach Walters is in Venezuela.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/milb/stats/org.jsp?id=was

    • Jw - Oct 17, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      Where is Detwiler? If anyone needs to be playing winter ball, he does.

  3. tcostant - Oct 17, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    I think he will submit a salary double this for arbitration, so over $10M. And he deserves it.

    • NatsLady - Oct 17, 2013 at 10:06 AM

      Absolutely. I love Clip, but if he’s getting $6MM then JZimm should get $12MM. This team is getting expensive… Hope a few of these prospect pitchers produce!

      • Faraz Shaikh - Oct 17, 2013 at 10:15 AM

        Clip is getting expensive.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 17, 2013 at 10:22 AM

        It was always so silly and rather ridiculous for those that kept pointing to the Nats low payroll in 2011 with the Lerner/Cheap baiting. Now you see what happens when your stud players get to arbitration and close to FA status. Now the payroll is headed well north of $100 million.

        The smart place to save is going with an in-house player for the #5 in the rotation and spend the cash on JZim and Desi and a 1st base/RF upgrade.

      • tcostant - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:07 AM

        Clip is worth it! Look at these playoff game, you need non-closers who can get guys out before the 9th inning. As for Zimm, I thinks Mark’s 5yr/$75M extention price is to low, that was last year price. Now it’s 5yrs/$90M. If he gets to free anancy, he’ll get over $100M

      • Theophilus T.S. - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        The Nats are at a point in their development as a team where they can’t flinch at an extra few $MM here or there. If you decide Clippard isn’t worth $6MM, or that $12MM (or $15MM) is too much for Z’mann, then prepare to take a step (or two) back. The guys that are overpaid are their overpaid #4 starter the last two years, their overpaid closer, their overpaid (in the long term, not the short) RF and potentially (in need of sucking it up) 3B. They can correct the #4 starter problem in the off-season but other than Soriano any corrections, including course reversals on other arguably over-paid players, mean taking a step back. If the Nats are to be contenders, their total salary budget needs to be on a sharp upward slope at least through 2016 (by which time Giolito, Jordan, Purke, Solis and/or Cole/Ray/Karns could be lower-cost fixtures in the rotation).

        Having the MASN money would be nice but until it arrives they’ll have to borrow from the Lerners’ petty cash account. Otherwise more years of close but no cigar portend. And I really don’t think the Lerners will flinch.

      • tcostant - Oct 17, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        Here here on the MASN comment!

  4. sjm308 - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    I am guessing who starts on opening day is not that huge a deal but I wrote last year and believe just as much this year that JZ should be our starter on opening day in 2014. No slight to SS or Gio but JZ has had two splendid years and in my mind is our “go to” starter. I agree with Ghost about spending the cash on JZ and Desi but think we will be standing pat at first for one more year. I would think that RF would be upgraded just by moving a certain 21 year old to that position and hope that happens sooner than later.

    Go Nats!!

    • NatsLady - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:35 AM

      Won’t happen. It’s a “big deal” to Stras, and that’s the point. We need Stras to BE Stephen Strasburg, and if he wants/needs that Opening Day start, fine. He seems to need more nursing than a baby panda, so I hope it pays off.

  5. TimDz - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    tcostant said: Clip is worth it! Look at these playoff game, you need non-closers who can get guys out before the 9th inning. As for Zimm, I thinks Mark’s 5yr/$75M extention price is to low, that was last year price. Now it’s 5yrs/$90M. If he gets to free anancy, he’ll get over $100M

    —————————-

    What does freeing some random Nancy have to do with Znn getting $100M?

  6. dhamm6500 - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Pay the man, Shirley.

  7. NatsLady - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Yes, I agree Clip is worth it. That’s still less than half Soriano is making, which is the stupidity of the market for “closers.” Brian Wilson is gonna make a fortune this winter.

  8. Theophilus T.S. - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Zimmermann deserves the Opening Day start. Otherwise they would be rewarding hype coupled with mediocrity;.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      Unless some body is being really cagey and stacking the rotation to be ready for the Braves. They could do that, and reshuffle the rotation with off days in the April schedule and likely rain postponements. But (A) baseball is too conventional; (B) a new manager will shy from appearing to be “radical” or a hyper-manipulator; (C) each victory over the Mets counts as much as a win over the Braves.

  9. Theophilus T.S. - Oct 17, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    For what it’s worth, I’m confused by the new “hype” surrounding Matt Williams. Heretofore the generally accepted consensus has been the players would love Williams because he is “easy-going.” Now Kilgore writes that he is “intense” and slammed offending team-mates into lockers. Which is it? I think those are mutually-exclusive attributes.

    Intense is fine w/ me, easy-going not so much.

    • ArVAFan - Oct 17, 2013 at 2:30 PM

      Yes, a win over the Mets counts the same in the stats. But losing the home opener to the Braves would feel like (a) deja vu all over again, (b) starts the season on the wrong foot and (c) means a great deal of moaning on blogs like this. I’d rather that moaning be on the Braves’ blogs. Just saying.

      As far as Williams, slamming teammates into lockers for breaking the unwritten rules of baseball is one thing. Doing it as a manager? Not so much. He may have grown out of slamming as he matured (we hope so: see, for example, Harper (lucky in 2012) and Mattheus (not so much in 2013)).

  10. Faraz Shaikh - Oct 17, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Cardinals vs Dodgers –
    Cards bullpen: Cmart, Rosenthal, Miller, Mujica, Choate, Meness,Kevin (none making more than $3.2 million this season)
    Dodgers bullpen: howell, volquez,marmol,wilson,jensen,belisario (marmol and volquez are making more than $3 million but we know one is a former closer and other is a starter)

    Red Sox vs Tigers –
    Red Sox: Tazawa, Uehara, dempster, breslow, felix, workman, morales (dempster (starter) and uehara are making more than $3 million)
    Tigers (who are known to have a weak bullpen): benoit, coke, veras, al, alvarez,smyly (only benoit is making more than $4 million)

    Nationals: soriano ($11 million), clippard ($4+ million), storen ($2.75+ million), stammen ($1.375 million).

    • Faraz Shaikh - Oct 17, 2013 at 3:52 PM

      I don’t want to get further discussion on this now.

      As far as JZ, he should be extended. I don’t know if he will though.

  11. sjm308 - Oct 17, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Lets say Rizzo does offer him the extension, how confident are we that he takes it?

    • TimDz - Oct 17, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      That depends on the amount offered and how comfortable Znn is in rolling the dice….

      In two years, he could win a Cy Young, lead the Nats to a WS win and set himself up for a MONSTER payday…
      Even if he repeats this years numbers the next two seasons, he is in for a big payday….

      However, things happen, such as injuries or bad seasons (how much money do you think Morse cost himself this year?)….

      If Znn is confident that he can stay healthy, he has zero motivation to sign an extension…if that is the case, Rizzo will need to come up with some big time numbers to get him to sign early (5/90 perhaps?).

    • Faraz Shaikh - Oct 17, 2013 at 4:41 PM

      honestly I am not. I am also somewhat skeptic about Rizzo’s ability to make a fair offer.

      To me, JZ does not seem like the guy who will give any discount and Rizzo seems like the guy who will sign his guy if he wants but overpay for it.

  12. evanwss19 - Oct 17, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    Assuming Jordan will eventually command nine-figures is something of a reach.

    I love the kid. He has been my favorite player sine he came up, he’s a horse, and makes use of his great location and velocity, but when push comes to shove, there is a finite amount of money to go around, and it could come down to resigning him or Desmond. While I usually side with pitching, Desmond’s ability comes at a serious premium, and Jordan is not an ace. He simply isn’t. He has been the most consistent starter on the staff the last two years, but he isn’t the big train that Stras is. If he wants to seek ace money, that’s his prerogative, but we shouldn’t break the bank for our number three with Giolito and Purke coming along, who will both be in the majors by 2015.

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Oct 17, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    MLBTR’s take last spring

    4-5 year deal would be fair for both sides. Gives us time to develop one or two good starters out of Robbie Ray, Solis, Giolito, Purke, Cole, etc.

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