Detroit Tigers get it right in signing Jordan Zimmermann


The Detroit Tigers made the first big splash of free agency on Monday, signing Jordan Zimmermann to a five-year, $110-million contract. Idoing so, the Tigers have gotten their No. 2 starting pitcher and have solidified the top of their rotation alongside 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP award winner Justin Verlander, who re-found the stuff that made him an ace down the stretch last year.

The 29-year-old right hander, who turns 30 in May, won’t be confused for Zack Greinke, David Price or even Johnny Cueto anytime soon in terms of pure stuff. However, new Tigers general manager and executive vice president of club operations Al Avila was never going to spend the cash it will take to sign the likes of Greinke, Price and Cueto this offseason.

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Thus, instead of focusing his attention and resources on one of the three aforementioned names, he chose to ink the top second-tier starting arm on the open market to a five-year, $110 million deal that will see him earn $22 million annually.

For Zimmermann, it was a smart move financially and logistically, as he allowed a career-high amount of hits and home runs in 2015 while pitching in a much more hitters’ friendly ballpark than Detroit’s Comerica Park.

With that said, spacious Comerica Park should allow Zimmermann’s home runs permitted total to return back to its career norm of under 20, which he had accomplished in each season of his seven-year career until ’15.

Even if he reduces the number of HRs he allows by only five, it would more than likely lead to numbers similar to the ones he recorded in 2012 and 2013 when he allowed 18 and 19 long balls, respectively.

During both of the aforementioned campaigns, he recorded wins above replacement totals north of the 3.5 WAR he put up in ’15.

Thus, the 2007 second-round pick of the Nationals is a lock to put up at least as good of a season as last year with a strong likelihood of reducing his 3.66 earned run average from ’15 to around the ERA he recorded in ’13, which was 3.25 to go along with a fielding independent pitching mark of 3.36 — a more important statistic for measuring a pitcher’s success.

Via the usage of his career FIP, Zimmermann has arguably been a better starting arm throughout his career than the still readily available Cueto, who was the prized ’15 trade deadline acquisition of the Kansas City Royals.

In fact, Zimmermann’s career FIP is 42 points better than Cueto’s, with Zimmermann’s standing at 3.40 and Cueto’s coming in at 3.82.

The favorable marks for Zimmermann in the comparison of him to Cueto don’t end there. He also holds a better career strikeouts per walks ratio and a career strikeouts per nine innings pitched mark that is exactly the same (7.4 K/9).

Additionally, when factoring in Cueto’s fragile right elbow and how poorly he pitched in the second half (he allowed more hits than innings pitched — 109 in 93.1 IP – and recorded a walks and hits per innings pitched marked of nearly one and a half), it’s crystal clear that Zimm was a better option than the fellow 29 year old.

Then, there’s the fact that Zimm, despite being a Tommy John surgery victim in 2009, has been much more durable than Motown right hander Anibal Sanchez in recent memory.

In fact, Sanchez, the hurler who would’ve been held responsible for handling the duty of pitching after JV in the Tigers’ rotation if Zimm wasn’t acquired, has pitched no more than 182 innings each of the past three campaigns. In comparison, Zimm has hurled at least 199 2/3 innings in each of those same three campaigns.

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It’s why this deal has all the makings of being a slam-dunk for Avila in his first major free agent signing as Detroit front office head honcho.      

For more on the Jordan Zimmermann signing, listen to Call To The Pen’s Michael Natelli discussing the signing on Tiger Talk w/ Chirco and Company (click here).