By: Chris Larson
For the last 6-8 weeks, there have plenty of names being mentioned as potential trade targets for teams especially those looking to bolster their starting rotation or add to their bullpen. Among a few of the names that have been mentioned in the starting pitching market are: J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, Lance Lynn, and the far-fetched Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Along with those individuals, there has also been murmurs about the Detroit Tigers potentially being open to trading Michael Fulmer.
Of course, the Detroit Tigers are a team in the midst of a transition right now, a transition that began last July when the team traded JD Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and continued this past offseason. Detroit hasn't completely torn the entire team down, simply because of the age and monetary amount owed to many of the players on it's 25-man roster, but it's clear based on the way the team has played this season, minus about a two-week stretch, that the team will be a seller come the trade deadline.
While many are focused on Michael Fulmer, one potential trade candidate that could become available, given the high demand for starting pitching around the trade deadline, is Fulmer's teammate, Jordan Zimmermann. The 32-year old, right-hander from Wisconsin, is in the third-year of his five-year, $110 million dollar deal that he signed with Detroit in November 2015. Zimmermann is still owed around $11 million dollars this year and has $50 million dollars left on his contract before all is said and done and he hits free agency in 2021.
For a guy like, Jordan Zimmermann, a trade won't be as easy as it would be for Michael Fulmer, but it might be one necessary for the Detroit Tigers who haven't necessarily gotten a mandate to clear payroll from ownership, but will likely want to free up some spending money for the future. Furthermore, because of the fact that he has about $61 million dollars in future salary left on his contract, the Tigers would likely have to pay down a significant amount of that money before a team agrees on a trade, but in baseball, anything is possible and you can't count out anything, as General Managers look to get creative and target guys that might not even be on others radar.
Based on how Zimmermann has sort of experienced a resurgence this season, it's easy to see why a team might be interested in him assuming the Tigers would be willing to pay down a significant amount of future money owed to him. After all, so far this season through today, Zimmermann has a 3.71 ERA over 63 innings of work. Heading into play today, Zimmermann's ERA was 3.51 and that came on the heels of his best start last Thursday against the Texas Rangers in which he pitched 8 innings, while recording 11 strikeouts and giving up 4 hits along with 1 run.
Now another concern that a team might have about Zimmermann besides the future money owed to him, relates to both his age, injury potential, and his track record. It was only last year that Zimmermann had the worst season of his 10-year big league career, when he posted a 6.08 ERA over 160 innings of work and gave up a career high 108 earned runs. Beyond that, Zimmermann had a brief stint on the 10-day DL earlier this season with a right shoulder impingement, which kept him sidelined for about three weeks before being sent off on a rehab assignment.
Zimmermann was not put on the disabled list at any point last season, but did miss a month in 2016 with right lat tightness. Lat tightness can be a really bad thing for any pitcher especially one that is in his 30's and has that increased risk of injury. However, there's always the potential that Zimmermann remains healthy for the next 2 and 1/2 seasons remaining on his contract and gives the Tigers or another team 25-30 starts every season, albeit a much smaller chance.
Still, there might be a General Manager out there, especially one from a team looking to bolster it's starting rotation, that takes a chance on Zimmermann especially if everything comes together and the Tigers are willing to sweeten the pot like mentioned before. Zimmermann might not be the top of the rotation starting pitcher that he once was, but could still be effective enough on the right team to add additional depth in the middle-to-back end of a rotation.
Furthermore, consider how Zimmermann has performed over the past month. In that span, he has made 5 starts and has a 2.60 ERA over 31.2 IP. Prior to today's start against the Tampa Bay Rays, through 4 starts, Zimmermann had a 1.80 ERA over 25.0 IP and had only allowed 5 earned runs, but had 4 earned runs in his start today down at Tropicana Field which caused the ERA to rise. Regardless, those stats still indicate that Zimmermann has been effective and could bring upon some appeal for the Detroit Tigers.
As is always the case this time of year, none of us truly know what the true market for someone like, Jordan Zimmermann, truly is especially considering the extra baggage that comes with acquiring him (age, injury potential, and future money owed), but we can speculate and try to find a potential trade partner, who could lie in the Bronx, in the New York Yankees. The Yankees have been connected to a plethora of different starting pitchers including Zimmermann's teammate, Michael Fulmer. The Yankees are looking for additional depth in their starting rotation and considering the fact that there is no number 1 or 2 starter on the trade market this season, the New York will likely have to settle with a lesser appealing name.
Of course if the New York Yankees make that trade, it does involve a bit of risk especially considering the fact that none of us know how Zimmermann will perform in a market the size of New York, but Zimmermann could give them an option to go along with CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka in a postseason series.
Other potential fits beyond the Yankees include other teams looking for starting pitching help including the: Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Atlanta Braves. There might be a surprise suitor or two out there as well that trades for Zimmermann for use next year and the year after as well.
Either way, the trade market is flooded with well-known names right now, but it's always important to consider those under-the-radar players as well and Jordan Zimmermann is certainly one of those. If all of the right ingredients come together for a trade, has yet to be known, but bears watching over the next few weeks and even in the upcoming offseason.