The Washington Nationals have already avoided arbitration with six of their seven eligible players, signing pitchers Drew Storen, Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard and Ross Detwiler to new deals and inking infielder Ian Desmond and outfielder Roger Bernadina to one-year contracts for 2013. Stammen was the only one among them to get a two-year deal out of the Nationals. The only arbitration-eligible player who didn't sign was 26-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, the four-year veteran who finished his second season after Tommy John surgery with a 2.94 ERA, a 3.51 FIP, 43 BB (1.98 BB/9) and 153 Ks (7.04 K/9) in 32 starts and 195.2 innings pitched over which he was worth +3.5 fWAR for the NL East division champs.
Zimmermann earned a Pitcher of the Month award for the month of July this past season, after the '07 2nd Round pick went (4-0) in six starts and 37.0 dominant innings pitched against the Giants, Rockies, Marlins, Mets (twice) and Brewers in which he had a 0.97 ERA, 2.08 FIP, four walks (0.97 BB/9) and 31 K's (7.54 K/9) with 27 hits, five runs (4 ER) and one home run allowed over that stretch. The pride of Auburndale, Wisconsin got his first taste of postseason action as well, struggling in his one start against the St. Louis Cardinals (3.0 IP, 7 H, 5 ER) but bouncing back with a memorable inning of relief work in Game 4 which saw Zimmermann strike out the side on 12 pitches and bridge the gap to the back of the bullpen after Detwiler's brilliant 6.0 innings of work in the win-or-go-home NLDS matchup.
Having failed to agree on a contract for 2013 before this past Friday's deadline to sign arbitration-eligible players or submit figures for arbitration, the Nationals and Zimmermann's reps made their respective numbers public last week with CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reporting that Washington was willing to pay Zimmermann $4.6M this season, while Zimmermann was asking for $5.8M after signing for one-year and $2.3M last year to avoid arbitration. The two sides can still agree on a deal, or possibly a rumored extension before the arbitration cases are heard between February 4th and 20th. The Nats went to arbitration with one pitcher last year, John Lannan, who asked for $5.7M and received $5.0M when the ruling went in Washington's favor, leaving the Nationals 6-2 in arbitration cases since the franchise relocated to the nation's capital in 2005.
Washington Post reporter James Wagner spoke to D.C. GM Mike Rizzo this weekend about the possibility of the Nationals signing Zimmermann to an extension. The Nats' general manager, who's been busy this winter, signing the six players he did, acquiring Denard Span, signing Dan Haren and Adam LaRoche and trading Michael Morse for prospects, told the WaPost's Mr. Wagner that he would prefer to avoid going to arbitration with Zimmermann and would consider signing both the right-hander and shortstop Ian Desmond to extensions this winter. Desmond, who had his own breakthrough year with a .292/.335/.511 line, 33 doubles, 25 HRs and 21 SBs in 130 games and 547 PAs over which he was worth +5.4 fWAR, signed a 1-year/$3.8M dollar deal last week.
Rizzo says in the Washington Post article that he's open-minded about signing, "... long-term deal(s) that makes sense for us to keep component players," and it's hard to imagine the Nationals considering Zimmermann (one of a dominant top three w/ Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg) or Desmond (their starting shortstop) as anything but key components for the near-future. Both players are under team control through 2016, and as the WaPost's James Wagner notes, "... if both continue to performan well, their salaries will continue to rise in arbitration."