Tigers closing in on deal for Jordan Zimmermann

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Tigers general manager Al Avila continues to methodically check off items on his off-season to-do list.

First, he acquired a veteran closer — Francisco Rodriguez. Then a veteran, right-handed hitting outfielder — Cameron Maybin.

Now, a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.

The Tigers have agreed to a five-year deal worth $110 million with right-handed free agent Jordan Zimmermann. Avila was unwilling to confirm the deal until the results of Zimmermann’s medical examination were in.

“The truth is we have a wide dragnet out there on pitchers and our interest is serious on all of them,” he said in a text message last week. “Because while there are several pitchers available, there are many clubs looking for pitching also. You just don’t know how it’s all going to settle.

“We have to be aggressive.”

Avila said after the season that his goal was to sign two starting pitchers — a top-of-the-rotation guy and a bottom-of-the-rotation guy. One down, one to go.

Zimmermann will be 30 in May and hasn’t missed a start in four seasons. He’s posted the sixth-best ERA-plus with a 1.16 WHIP in that span.

There are concerns. He will be entering his seventh season after having Tommy John surgery in 2009

and he is coming off the worst

full season of his career. He posted the highest ERA (3.66) and WHIP (1.205) and allowed career-highs in hits, runs and home runs (24).

His fastball velocity and whiff rates decreased significantly last season. Still, his fastball command is sharp and the velocity is still a firm 93 mph on both his four-seam and two-seam fastballs.

His strikeouts-to-walks ratio last season was 4.21.

He also tends to induce a lot of fly balls, which should play well at spacious Comerica Park.

Since he was tagged with a qualifying offer from the Nationals, the Tigers would have to give up a draft pick to sign him. But that’s not much of a bother. Their first-round pick, ninth overall, is protected. They will have to give up their second pick in next year’s draft.

All things considered, he fits the bill for the Tigers — a durable, productive and affordable top-of-the-rotation arm. It would give the Tigers a formidable, if healthy, top three — Justin Verlander, Zimmermann, and Anibal Sanchez.

“Happy the rumors were true!” Verlander tweeted. “Welcome to #Detroit @JZimmermann27 !!”

Avila still has the financial resources to acquire a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.