The Detroit Tigers signed Jordan Zimmermann in 2016 hoping he’d be a long-term ace.
That isn’t quite how things have turned out. Instead of continuing the brilliant resume he built alongside Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper with the Washington Nationals, Zimmermann has been one of the sport’s biggest free-agent busts in recent memory.
Just how bad has the Zimmermann experiment turned out in Detroit? Let’s take a look.
Jordan Zimmermann is a veteran MLB pitcher
This may be hard to believe now, especially among Tigers fans, but Jordan Zimmermann was once one of baseball’s best young pitchers.
A 6-foot-2, 225-pound pitcher from Wisconsin, Zimmermann quickly climbed through the Nationals’ minor league system. A second-round pick in 2007, Zimmermann debuted in April 2009 and went 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA in 16 starts as rookie.
By 2011, Zimmermann was a full-fledged member of the Nationals’ rotation and recorded a 3.18 ERA in 26 starts.
The 2012 season is when everything changed. Stephen Strasburg was fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and Bryce Harper debuted that spring. From 2012-15, Zimmermann went 58-32 with a 3.13 ERA, seven complete games, and four shutouts in 129 starts.
He earned All-Star nods and top-7 finishes in the NL Cy Young Award voting in both 2013 and 2014.
Zimmermann also threw the first no-hitter in Nationals history on Sept. 28, 2014. Zimmerman blanked the rival Miami Marlins that day.
Zimmermann has had a rough stint in Detroit
Jordan Zimmermann signed a $110 million, five-year contract with the Detroit Tigers in November 2015. The Tigers hoped Zimmermann would team up with Justin Verlander — if Verlander could rebound from a down 2015 — and bring a title back to Detroit.
Things didn’t come remotely close to working out that way. Although Zimmermann posted a 1.50 ERA in his first seven starts with the Tigers, injuries and ineffectiveness eventually caught up with him.
Zimmermann finished his first year in Detroit with a 9-7 record and 4.87 ERA in 19 starts. Things didn’t improve from there. Zimmermann is 25-41 with a 5.61 ERA in 96 starts with the Tigers and went an ugly 1-13 across 23 starts last season.
He’s at least soaked up innings for a Tigers team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2014, but that isn’t much of a saving grace considering his salary.
Verlander, on the other hand, revived his career in 2016. The Tigers traded Verlander to Houston in 2017 and he’s been arguably the American League’s best pitcher in that span.
Jordan Zimmermann has made over $4 million per win with the Tigers
Jordan Zimmermann may have thrown his final pitch for the Tigers. Detroit recently placed him on the 45-day injured list — this year’s version of the 60-year IL — with a right forearm strain.
Considering the Tigers will play 60 games in 65 days, Zimmermann’s tenure in Detroit may be over. He turned 34 in May and is a free agent after the season.
If the end has indeed arrived, Zimmermann won 25 games after he signed a $110 million, five-year contract. That amounts to a hefty $4.4 million per victory he recorded.
In fairness to Zimmermann, he’s pitched on some terrible Tigers teams and pitcher wins aren’t a perfect stat. But the bottom line speaks loudest, and the takeaway is Zimmermann pocketed good change from the Tigers.