In two years, Washington Nationals ace pitcher Jordan Zimmermann will be up for free agency. That means that this offseason is the time for the Nationals to try to negotiate an extension for their Cy Young candidate. However, they should instead take a wait-and-see approach before they hand him the high-priced contract he’s looking for.
There’s no doubt that Zimmermann is a pitcher that has been essential to the Nationals’ success. In 2013, he pitched to a 19-9 record with four complete games and a 3.25 ERA. He averaged six strikeouts per nine innings and made his first career All-Star game. Everything points to the Nationals needing to re-sign him, right?
Well, it’s not that simple. The problem is that Zimmermann isn’t going to come cheap. This past week, he told The Washington Post that he doesn’t want a team-friendly deal. Rather, he wants to get paid his value. After the Detroit Tigers gave Justin Verlander a seven-year, $180 million contract this past spring, that value could be too big of a risk to take.
Zimmermann is currently 27-years old and he’ll turn 30 during May of 2016, his free agent year. Ask yourself — how many pitcher are able to keep up their strong play into their 30s? The answer is very few and that’s what makes tying up a ton of money in Zimmermann so risky. If you look at the 2015 free agent class, it makes all the more sense for the Nationals to wait on extending Zimmermann’s contract.
In 2015, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester could all be free agents. Will they come cheap? No, absolutely not. But the Nationals will be able to become major players for those pitchers if they don’t have millions tied up in an aging Zimmermann. It’s also worth noting that the Nationals are expecting one of their top pitching prospects, Lucas Giolito, to be MLB-ready by 2015.
Is Zimmermann worth a lot of money now? You bet. But what about in the future? Five years from now, will Zimmermann still be worth the millions that he’s asking for? That’s the better question to ask. Will he still be worth it 3-5 years from now? I’m not so sure.
He may be a fan favorite in Washington, but the Nationals may want to start thinking about life after him. The price that he’s going to be asking for is going to be way too high, and the risk that comes with him won’t be worth it. Washington has two more seasons with Zimmermann if they don’t trade him — hopefully they make them count.