On Friday morning, the Washington Nationals re-signed ace pitcher Jordan Zimmermann to a two-year contract worth $24 million. While some hoped that they would come to a long-term agreement, this actually works out for the best for both sides. Joel Sherman first reported the deal on Twitter.
#Nationals and Jordan Zimmermann reach 2-yr, $24M deal. Buys out last 2 yrs of arb. Gets $7.5 in ’14,$16.5 in ’15.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) January 17, 2014
In 2013, there’s no question who the ace was for the Nationals. Zimmermann went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. He struck out 161 batters while walking just 40 and pitched four complete games including two shutouts. He was lights out on the mound, and Washington was guaranteed 6-7 quality innings every time he took the hill. Re-signing him was a key, but for how long was the other question.
A while back, I wrote that the Nationals should not re-sign Zimmermann past his free agency year in 2015. While he’s pitched well, the kind of money that he would be looking for in a long-term contract would be too much of a risk. Zimmermann has already undergone Tommy John Surgery once in his career, and though he’s returned strong, how long will that arm last?
Many pitchers can’t maintain their high level pitching into their 30s. As soon as they hit the three-decade mark their stuff begins to fall off, especially the hard-ball hurlers. For Zimmermann, he’ll turn 30 in May of 2016, and I foresee that trend coming true for him. So, in the long run, a big money contract just wouldn’t be worth it, especially when you look at the 2015 free agent class.
The same year that Zimmermann becomes a free agent, Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester are all currently set to be free agents as well. Will they come cheap? No way. However, the Nationals will now be able to be players to sign them because they won’t have millions tied up in Zimmermann. As the same time his run comes to an end in D.C., Washington will be looking to begin a new one with one of those four.
That’s why this current two-year deal makes sense for both sides. Zimmermann made it clear last December that he didn’t want a team-friendly deal. He wanted to make as much money possible because he felt that’s what he was owed. At the same time, it wouldn’t have been smart for Washington to tie up millions in a long-term contract for a guy that will fizzle out early on in that contract.
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this ended up being his final contract in D.C. as Washington will have suitable replacements for him when this deal expires. Those replacements could come at a cheaper cost as well. If Zimmermann continues to pitch this well, we could likely see him seeking a deal similar to Clayton Kershaw‘s lucrative score. If that’s the case, Washington should look elsewhere.
With this new deal, Washington will get to have Zimmermann for two more years, and he’ll still get his millions. It’s a deal that will work out for the best in the long run for each side.