Jordan Zimmermann is probably untradeable. Probably. But it might be for the best.
First let’s talk a bit about the past. A little more than four years ago the same statement could have been said of Prince Fielder, fresh off a disappointing performance in 2013 and coupled with comments that left the Tigers’ fanbase questioning the commitment of the team’s $214 million man.
Former GM Dave Dombrowski found a way, shipping Fielder and $30 million to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Although injuries eventually cut Fielder’s career short, you had to marvel at the time about how the Tigers dodged an expensive mistake. Imagine if they’d had to pay him $24 million a year until 2020 on top of all the other pricey, inefficient contracts.
And that’s even with Fielder putting up an OPS of .868 (and 136 OPS+, meaning Fielder hit 36 percent better than average) during his time in Detroit.
Can lightning strike twice, with Zimmermann owed $74 million over the next three years?
Boston Globe columnist Nick Cafardo suggested Sunday that Zimmermann’s former team, the Nationals, might be interested in his return.
The overwhelming sentiment in Detroit is likely a combination of “where do I sign up?” and “does Zimmermann need a ride to the airport?”
During his first year in Detroit, Zimmermann posted an ERA of 4.87. This came as a great disappointment for a player meant to help pitch the Tigers back into the postseason.
This season, that figure climbed to 6.08. That he was somehow still worth more than a replacement player (0.6 WAR, per Baseball Reference) makes you question the credibility of the stat.
Of course, comparing Fielder and Zimmermann would be apples to oranges.
Fielder was above-average during his time in Detroit and played 324 out of a possible 324 regular-season games. Zimmermann was barely replacement level and has suffered from back and neck pain during a large portion of his time with the team.
Trading for Fielder could be argued as a sensible move for the Rangers, as he brought a unique talent and personality to a team that felt like it was on the verge of contending for a world championship. The best you could hope for with Zimmermann are performances strong enough to be forgettable.
It’s hard to see why any team would trade for him at this point.
Should the Tigers try to move the failed starter at all costs? No. Not right now, anyway.
With no expectation of competing for several years down the line, the team doesn’t have a lot of reason to make a low-value move right now.
And it’s hard to see the good that would come from trading Zimmermann at this point.
The best the Tigers would be able to hope for is paying most of his salary to whatever team took it, and receiving low-expectation prospects in return. If you were running a baseball franchise, you probably wouldn’t give up much for him either. If the Nationals or any other team wants to just take that contract off the Tigers’ hands, let them. The reality is, that’s probably not going to happen.
In the meantime, Zimmermann is the elder statesman on a team where Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd would otherwise count as the experienced members of the rotation, while Michael Fulmer is the staff “ace” after just two seasons.
The Tigers could use Zimmermann’s experience as well as his ability to eat 150 – or preferably more – innings while the prospects are given the time to mature in the minor leagues.
The thought of trading Zimmermann might sound nice today. But there isn’t any benefit to rushing into things, rumored interested party or not.
The Tigers need to continue doing what’s right, not what’s popular at the time.
Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.