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Zimmermann: “I just want to be paid what I’m worth”

Feb 18, 2014, 9:58 AM EDT

AP AP

VIERA, Fla. — Much as he’d like to keep his mind off it, Jordan Zimmermann couldn’t help but notice the dollar figures being thrown around to fellow pitchers this winter.

Adam Wainwright: $97.5 million. Homer Bailey: $100 million. Masahiro Tanaka: $155 million. And the mother of all mega-extensions for a big-league pitcher: $215 million to Clayton Kershaw.

So don’t blame Zimmermann for recognizing he could be on the cusp of his own jaw-dropping deal.

“I mean, it’s hard not to pay attention when it’s on the bottom line on ESPN and all over the place,” the Nationals right-hander said Tuesday morning. “There’s a lot of money in this game. Hopefully I can keep pitching well for the next two years, hopefully work something out and stay here for the long-term.”

The Nationals would love to lock Zimmermann up for years to come; they’ve been discussing an extension since 2012. To date, though, the two sides haven’t been able to find common ground. And it doesn’t appear they’re on the verge of consummating anything in the immediate future.

Zimmermann and the Nationals did settle on a 2-year, $24 million deal last month, not only avoiding arbitration this spring but next spring as well.

“It’s definitely good to have that out of the way,” the 27-year-old said. “I don’t have to deal with it next winter. I can just focus on baseball next offseason. I’m glad it’s over with. I’m here for another two years, and then hopefully in the future we can work something else out.”

What it will take to keep Zimmermann here for the future remains a matter of discussion. Does he deserve the kind of contracts afforded the very best pitchers in the game? Well, consider that since 2011 only four major-league starters boast ERAs better than Zimmermann’s 3.12 mark: Kershaw, Jered Weaver, Cliff Lee and Justin Verlander.

He’s effective. He’s consistent. He’s durable. He still has many years ahead of him.

Can you blame Zimmermann for wanting to see his name scrolling across the bottom of the screen in two years, with the same kind of contract details that made him stop and take notice this winter?

“I’ve been saying all along, I just want to be paid fair and be paid what I’m worth,” he said. “I’m not trying to strike one of the largest deals ever or anything like that. I just want to be paid what I’m worth. Obviously I like it here. But if we can’t come to an agreement here, then I might be moving on. But that’s a few years away. We don’t have to be thinking about that now. Think about winning this year.”

  1. 3on2out - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    As much as I hate to say it, I am pretty convinced he is gone. He is going to get insane money and I don’t think the Nationals will (or should) pay the $150M plus it will take to keep him.

  2. Nats128 - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    Give him 7 for $17 million. It’s not my money so easy for me to say but I think he’s in that tier.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:21 AM

      Come on, I like team friendly deals but he deserves more than $3 MM a year.

      • Nats128 - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:29 AM

        Yup, of course he is and that’s $17 million a year for $119 million!

      • kirbs3256 - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:47 PM

        He will get 23 a year.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        in that case, he can go some place else. thanks for these years. I will personally give him a ride to the airport.

  3. scnatsfan - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    I agree with 3on2; someone will throw stupid money at him. I liek JZ and hope he stays but he won’t be in the upper tier pitchers until he finishes a year like he starts them; after the ASB he tends to tire.

  4. ehay2k - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    I liked the deal the Nats gave to Zimmermann. Giving Jordan a nice bump – more than he would have received this year for sure – and keeping him out of arbitration next year was a good show of faith by the Nats. I’m sure they want to lock him up, but this way the Nats mitigate some risk – if he gets injured over the next two years, or suffers some sort of setback, or just becomes a league average pitcher (none of which anyone wants to happen) then he may not command the same dollars. If he has two great years, he is going to get paid no matter what. And I get the feeling he was not looking to sign a multi-year deal now, like Gio did. So the Nats took the best path forward as far as I can tell. In Rizzo we trust (but we will still verify!)

    Also, on the subject in a prior post about AL teams signing all the FA’s, is there now a (bigger) advantage to AL teams because not only can they sign good hitters, knowing those guys can DH later in life, but now if they have to give up a draft pick, it doesn’t hurt as much because they get so much more life from the FA? The lost pick is, in effect, spread out over more years. It just seems in the NL the contract length is necessarily shorter, so signing more FAs (over time) would result in more lost draft picks. Or am I missing something?

  5. David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Zimmermann is under contract next year for $16.5M. That number is about what it would take per year to lock him up long-term, I think. Whether that’s a coincidence (probably) or not, we’ll find out I guess.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      six years at that price from now to his age 33 season.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:33 AM

      just to be clear, I prefer less dollars per year for him. I think $15 is fair. after all he is worth slightly more than 3 fWAR.

      • David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM

        If Homer Bailey is getting 6/100, Zimmermann will get 6/100 at least. Zimmermann is much better and MUCH more consistent. And they’re the same age.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:48 AM

        Bailey is a free agent next year.

      • David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:49 AM

        Sure, but Zimmermann is already guaranteed 16.5M next year in arbitration anyway.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        unfortunately!

  6. Doc - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    It’s hard for Rizzo to be prudent, when as noted by scnatsfan, some other GM will throw even more ‘stupid money’ at a pitcher.

    The players have management over a barrel (a barrel full of money), and you either pay the going freight, or let the train move on.

    It’s not like the Nats don’t have other pitching talent coming up from the farm and through the door. The Cards are doing well without Pujols………

    • Nats128 - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:36 AM

      Maybe maybe not as the Nats would offer him FA Arbitration which will hurt his marketability when tied to a Draft pick.

      Look what just happened to Ubaldo and last year to Lohse.

      JZ based on his resumé won’t get $20 million a year long term.

      • tcostant - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:48 PM

        What. $20M a year seems about right. It baseball’s new age.

    • Hiram Hover - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      +1 to the point you and scnatsfan make about stupid money.

      That’s the key question about what JZimm means by “what I’m worth.” If he defines it as what a prudent GM would pay for his expected production, that’s one thing. If he defines it as the stupidest of stupid money, then it’s probably $20-30M more.

  7. NatsNut - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    I think it would be very, very hard for Rizzo to let Zimmermann go to free agency. Harder than any other pitcher on this team, I’m guessing. I also don’t think Zimmermann’s number would be completely outrageous, though it’s only going to get worse for Rizzo as time goes on. Still, worst case scenario is Rizzo gets a boat load of prospects for him next summer, though I still don’t think it will happen.

  8. Hiram Hover - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    Homer Bailey is not a bad comp for JZimm, in terms of the low end of his expectations. They were born less than 3 weeks apart; Bailey has about 160 more big league innings and only one year under team control left, while JZimm has two.

    They had almost identical fWARs last year (Bailey’s 3.7 bested JZimm by one tenth), but JZimm has been more consistent – 10.2 WAR over the last 3 years, vs. Bailey’s 7.5. Their peripherals have been increasinly close, with the edge to JZimm.

    If $100M/6 is what Bailey ends up with, he’s getting about $90M for 5 FA years, and JZimm should expect to do better. So I’d think the mid 120s for 7 years has to be an absolute floor for him – he should be worth at least $20M per for the 5 FA years, plus the $24m he already has coming.

  9. David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Right now, after factoring in arbitration estimates and assuming we pick up Span’s $9M option, we’re looking at about a $131M payroll, which is around where we are this year.

    Of course, we’re going to have to probably find a 1B, pick up some bench pieces, etc. So while, yes, LaRoche and Soriano come off the books, our other guys get more expensive. It would be beneficial to the team to lock up JZimm long-term and backload the deal a bit.

    Either way, trust Mike Rizzo. He knows what’s doing. If it makes sense to lock JZimm up, he will. If not, he won’t.

    In other news, Harper and Werth have reported so the whole gang is at camp.

    • jd - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:18 AM

      David,

      The bigger issue may be that we have to go through this entire exercise with Stras in a year and Harper soon thereafter. It’s not hard to foresee our payroll reach $180 mil in a couple of years. There is a number (I don’t know what it is) where the entire enterprise becomes unprofitable and I don’t care how rich the Lerners are they are not in this to lose money.Also keep in mind that there is a salary level above which there is a fairly severe ‘penalty’.

      I absolutely agree with your number analysis for JZim using Bailey as a barometer ( I think they are more or less in the same ball park with a slight edge to JZimm).

      • David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:23 AM

        The Nationals certainly have to make choices. They simply can’t keep Desmond, JZimm, Strasburg, and Harper. I don’t see a way. It depends on how soon you start talking extension, but keep in mind that Werth’s contract ends before Harper hits free agency. That creates some additional flexibility.

        The Lerners will not pay the luxury tax, I feel pretty confident in saying that. I do think they would bring the payroll to around the $150M range, with the possibility of it being higher in certain years and lower in others.

        Personally, I keep the position players. Focus on keeping Desmond and Harper. But I’m sure Rizzo has thought long and hard about this and has a plan.

  10. Sirc - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    The question is still:

    Will Rizzo and the Nats ever sign a long contract with a pitcher, especially one that extends into a pitcher’s 30s?

    That’s what agents are asking, and so far the answer has been “no.”

    • ehay2k - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      Gio is under contract until age 30, with 2 more team option years, so doesn’t that count?

      • Sirc - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        Sure it count.

        Think Jordan Zimmermann is willing to sign a 4 year contract with 2 team options?

    • David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      I don’t know that we’ve had a situation like this, really, under Rizzo. So we’ll find out over the next two years, but I don’t think you can draw any conclusions from what he’s done so far.

  11. Doc - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    Rizzo does a pretty good job of filling in trades with young talent, to make up for young talent that he just traded in a previous trade.

    One thing you don’t want, is a bunch of pitchers/position players in their 30s, all on long-term contracts—a recipe for falling out of contention (See Phillies for further understanding in these matters)!

  12. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    You Scrooges keep ignoring the upward spiral in the cost of pitching. Lincecum signs an insane contract with a thrifty team at the outset of the offseason and the whole pitching market went up several million dollars a year. What you think is “fair” in 2015 is almost completely unrelated to where the market will be in 2017. What drives the market isn’t just WAR, it’s (A) how much money do I have to pay to keep this guy from signing with another team, (B) how much will it cost me to sign an equivalent — not “replacement” — player to fill his slot, and (C) how much will the fans crucify me if I let him walk. Once the Nats answer those questions for themselves, Zimmermann’s agent’s job is easy: find one of thirty-one teams who are willing to pay more.

  13. David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    Interesting take on Pedro Severino, who Chris Crawford has our #4 prospect (?!).

    “Of all the catchers I talked to scouts about this off season, no one got more rave reviews for his defense behind the plate than Severino. He’s already an excellent receiver behind the dish with soft hands and quality reflexes on pitches in the dirt, and while his arm isn’t as good as Reese McGuire’s, it’s still a plus-plus tool that can absolutely shut down a team’s running game.

    The question with Severino is the bat, though he certainly showed enough flashes to believe he can hit enough putting that defensive skill in the lineup everyday. He’ll likely never be even a double digit homer guy, but he has above-average barrel control and bat-speed. He’s a hard worker who is still learning how to work counts into his favor, and I would be surprised if he’s not considered one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball after 2014.”

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      good to know but someone with .608 OPS at A level is doubtful to stick around in majors as a starter.

      • David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        He’s still only 19 years old.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:42 PM

        Still. He ain’t gonna be ready any time soon.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:42 PM

        soon we will have to protect this guy from rule V drafts.

  14. Section 222 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Seems pretty clear JZnn wants to test the market. Rizzo would have to offer him silly money to dissuade him from that. That probably isn’t going to happen.

    I’m not ruling out the possiblity of him re-signing with the Nats after next year, however, especially if the Nats go deep in the playoffs for the next two seasons. Being paid what your worth is not the same as accepting the highest offer. He might decide to stay here and keep building the dynasty over joining the Mariners, Cubs, or Angels, as long as Rizzo’s offer is competitive. The draft pick is key to that calculation.

    • David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      Another thing to consider is that most of the big money contracts for pitchers are being given out by their own team. Kershaw, Verlander, Felix, etc. We haven’t seen a 9 figure contract for a pitcher in free agency, except for Zack Greinke, who won a Cy Young. (I don’t count Tanaka since he didn’t have the qualifying offer attached).

      • David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        And one more thing to consider: his free agency class is loaded.

        Doug Fister enters that class with him, and they’re very similar pitchers. David Price is also in that class. So is Johnny Cueto. So it’s not like Zimmermann is clearly the best pitcher in that class.

        Maybe Rizzo is going to gamble that Zimmermann doesn’t have the market that he expects to have and so he’ll come back for less.

      • Section 222 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:39 AM

        Both good points. It’s not a bad gamble since we have a good pipeline of pitching if it fails. As good as Zim is, he’s not worth the contracts given to Kershaw or Felix. I don’t blame him for wanting to test the market though.

    • tcostant - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      I think your on the right track, looks for the Nats to take a good shot at signing him next offseason and if they deem that he will never be affordable then they will deal for a package of younger controlable players…

  15. unkyd59 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    I’ve never bought in to the concept of back loading contracts. I guess the premise is to maximize a short term window, and clean up the mess, later, but if your talent is as young as ours, with so much legitimate talent in the pipeline, why would you leave a mess to clean up, if you can be judicious with how many big deals you make, trade guys like JZ a year before FA, for more, and fill any temporary gaps with guys like Fister?

    • unkyd59 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      We know we can’t have 10 $100 million contracts on the books, but some guys will sign friendlier deals, and if you keep 3-4 super studs, and get something back for the ones who get away, you should be able to keep it rolling, no?

    • David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      Back-loading isn’t always about just creating a mess down the road. Maybe you want the bulk of Zimmermann’s contract to go into effect when Werth’s contract is off the books. Or maybe something like that for Harper, etc. It depends on the financial construction of the team.

      • unkyd59 - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:37 AM

        Thanks, DP…. I hadn’t thought of that…. So on occasion, it’s like a calendar jigsaw puzzle…

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      I think more along these lines. I wouldn’t hesitate to trade anyone.

      • jd - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM

        Still, You need a core of players to build around and whom you would only move as a last resort. I would have to be blown away to move either Stras or Harper.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:29 PM

        no doubt! we can choose to let some players walk away in their walk year, some get extended, and some get traded.

  16. langleyclub - Feb 18, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    The development of Lucas Giolito, Jake Johansen, Matt Puke, Sammy Solis, and others over the next two years will play a big role in what the Nats do. If in two years, Lucas Giolito is ready to be a #1 or #2, and any of the others are ready to be a #3 or #4, there will be far less pressure on the Nats to commit to nine figures and 6+ years to Zimmerman. OTOH, if the Nats’ young arms fail to develop and keeping JZ will be the difference between contending or not, the Nats may be forced to open the checkbook for JZ.

    If everything goes as planned, Giolito would step into JZ’s spot, and one of others would step into Fister’s spot giving the Nats the flexibility to enter into a long-term commitment with Harper (as the Angels may with Trout soon), Desmond, Strasburg and/or Gio.

    • David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      Gio is under team control through his age 32 season. I’m not all that interested in keeping him beyond that.

    • jd - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:20 PM

      langleyclub,

      1) As good a prospect as Giolito is it’s still overly optimistic to project him as a no. 1 in 2 years. This is a 19 year old who has pitched exactly 38 innings of rookie ball (below A class) and is only now entering his 1st full pro year.- one can hope but one shouldn’t project.

      2) Purke is pretty much considered a non-prospect at this time. He has battled several arm injuries and has been neither healthy nor effective since TCU pretty much destroyed his arm.

      3) Johansen is not considered a top level prospect.

      4) Solis is already 25 and has yet to pitch at a level higher than A ball.He projects as a bottom of the rotation guy at best.

      I think that Taylor Jordan and Roark are a lot closer to being project able and A.J Cole also has a decent chance to fight for a rotation spot in 2015.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM

        wow thanks for squashing our hopes. you like stepping on fans’ dreams, don’t you? :P

        I agree that if TJ and Roark can be solid middle of rotation guys in next two years (not sure how), that would be great.

      • langleyclub - Feb 18, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        jd,

        The point was not to claim that Giolito would be a #1 in two years or that any of the other pitchers mentioned would be a #3 in two years. The point was the Nats decision on Zimmerman will be heavily influenced by the development (or lack of development) of their minor league arms. If they all wash out (as you seemingly predict), there will be more pressure to commit to a massive deal on JZ. If Giolito and any other minor league arm are ready to step in the rotation in 2016, the need to commit massive dollars to JZ will not be there.

        BTW, Giolito was the best pitching prospect in baseball heading into the 2012 draft. The reason why he has thrown 38 innings is that he had TJ surgery. The significance of his 2013 return to baseball was not his number of innings, but that his velocity and unhittable stuff returned. Pitchers with electric stuff move up the ladder quickly. So, if Giolito stays healthy, it is not unreasonable to think that he could be key piece of the Nats rotation in 2016.

        Also, totally disagree with your assessment of Johansen as a non top-level prospect. I know the Nats front office does not see it that way. He is huge with a power arm, and showed surprising control in 2013. The question for him is whether he can develop the secondary pitches to be middle of the rotation starter or whether he will be a right handed power arm out of the pen.

  17. Drew - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    This is why it’s so important to have Giolito and Cole in the pipeline.

  18. David Proctor - Feb 18, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    https://vine.co/v/MZiHmLbHmrw

    Bryce taking BP

  19. nats1924 - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    I love JZim ever since I heard he pitched in college with a broken jaw during a snow storm.

    Fact is, Nats have to be real smart when dishing out contracts. Given the fact we have T Jordan, Giolito, Cole, Solis and Purke in the pipeline, Nats can play hardball.

    But, if we had to give #1 starter money to one of our SPs, JZim would be my choice vs Stras.

    Tough call for Rizzo.

  20. Section 222 - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    That video of Bryce is a sight for sore eyes.

  21. philipd763 - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Signing pitchers to pricey long term contracts is a crap shoot. One pitch and a career can be over or interrupted for a lengthy time.

  22. JamesFan - Feb 19, 2014 at 5:45 AM

    This is a very interesting problem. JZ has to be considered in the context of other Nats players needing to be locked up. I would pick Desi over JZ if I could only afford one. Then the question becomes what would it cost to replace JZ off the open market if a youngster is not ready (and there is no guarantee one will be)

    They also have to consider big ticket players coming due: Stras, Harp, Ramos. Then what do they do about Gio? Who replaces Werth in a couple of years? LaRoche? Would a replacement player on the market cost more than a long-term extension of some of these guys?

    The deepest secrets inside the GM office must be the dollar value they place on players for the long-term. It would be fascinating to know those numbers.

    The 2014 season is going to be a pivotal one, not just to see if this team is competitive at the top of baseball, but also to see what happens to key players. What kind on years Stras, Desi, JZ, Ramos, Harp have will say a lot about the long-term price of these players. If Stras fades, Harp hits .260 and 20 homers and can’t hit lefty junk, or Ramos gets hurt again, 2014 could cost these players dearly.

    It seems to me that the Nats are entering the period in which the team can go one of two ways. Way one is to trade the minor league talent away to fill holes left by players that the team cannot afford. Way two is to continue to focus on the draft and hold on to key minor league talent and take risk that replacements can be found in house for most openings. Personally, I hope the Nats continue to focus on their minor league system. This all assumes that the Nats will not go crazy in spending like the Dodgers or the Yanks.

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