The Detroit Tigers have made some unfortunate and costly offseason additions in years past. If Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t work out, is the window forever closed?
Over the last few years, the Detroit Tigers have been quick when it comes to addressing needs in the offseason. When Victor Martinez went down in 2012 doing preseason workouts, the Tigers responded by signing Prince Fielder to a ridiculous nine-year, $214 million contract literally out of nowhere, just to replace Martinez’s bat for the one season he was going to miss. By some miracle, the Tigers rid themselves of a majority of the Fielder contract in a deal with the Texas Rangers, which also brought Ian Kinsler to Detroit in exchange and saved the club over $70 million.
Had the Tigers not been able to trade Fielder, he and his $24 million annual salary would still here, and the Tigers would be pretty much screwed financially. Not to mention a very unhappy Prince Fielder avoiding everybody for FIVE more seasons. Thank you again, Texas.
During this past offseason, the Detroit Tigers may have put themselves right back in a similar situation when they added Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann to the starting rotation. Like in 2012 when replacing an injured V-Mart, in 2016 they’re trying to replace the departed Max Scherzer in an attempt to make it back to the postseason, when Scherzer and Justin Verlander held down the top of the rotation.
Although Zimmermann was one of the top starting pitching free agents over the winter, he comes with a few more red flags than most pitchers who have ever signed a contract worth that amount. For example, the Tigers made Major League Baseball history by making Jordan Zimmermann the first pitcher ever to sign a deal over nine-figures (Zimmermann’s deal is worth $110 million) after having Tommy John Surgery during his career. Zimmermann had the operation in the middle of his rookie campaign in 2009 and missed a majority of 2010 due to the injury. He returned in a limited role in 2010, and since 2011 has averaged 180 innings per season.
Zimmermann is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to the Tommy John operation, as is teammate Anibal Sanchez, who also had the procedure in 2003. In fact, the two are a part of a very limited group of pitchers who have ever even received over $30 million for their services on the mound after successful Tommy John Surgery.
While both Sanchez and Zimmermann have had excellent careers post-surgery thus far, recently each has tailed off slightly. Sanchez ended last season on the DL while having an ERA just under 5. and specialized in giving up home runs. He’s already been sent home with a sickness while battling a triceps issue this spring, and he is due to make $16.8 million this year.
Zimmermann is coming over to the Tigers from the National League East, and now has to deal with the designated hitter more frequently, which replaces the spot where pitchers hit in NL lineups. Now Zimmermann gets to face batters who’s only job is to hit for a living, whereas in Washington DC that spot was occupied by batters who’s only job was primarily to pitch. Madison Bumgarner has a career batting average of .188 and is considered one of the games best hitting pitchers. Last year Prince Fielder lead the way in an underachieving year for designated hitters with an average of .305. Starting a career high 33 games last year is a positive, but a career high in ERA and holding over a 1.20 WHIP is a little nerve-racking considering the surgery. If Zimmermann cannot perform at an elite level this year on the heels of his new contract, it puts the Tigers in an interesting predicament. Nobody is going to take a 30-year-old, declining
Starting a career high 33 games last year is a positive, but a career high in ERA and holding over a 1.20 WHIP is a little nerve-racking considering the surgery. If Zimmermann cannot perform at an elite level this year on the heels of his new contract, it puts the Tigers in an interesting predicament. Nobody is going to take a 30-year-old, right-handed pitcher on the decline who’s due $75 million. The Tigers better pray his and Anibal’s elbows stay intact if they plan on making one final push at the World Series.
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