Oct 17, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
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.
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