When Jordan Zimmermann, 28, signed a 2-year/$24M extension last winter which bought out his final two years of artbitration-eligibility, the Washington Nationals' '07 2nd Round pick told reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, that though the smaller deal came after the two sides failed to agree on a long-term contract it didn't mean they couldn't agree on a bigger one at some point in the future.
"'If a year down the road or after this season if there’s a long-term deal that works out for both sides, we’d be happy and willing to do it,'" Zimmermann explained. "'This is just a small little deal that takes us away from the arbitration.'"
In 2015, in the second year of that two-year deal, Zimmermann will make $16.5M coming off a (14-5) season in 2014 in which the right-hander put up a 2.66 ERA, a 2.68 FIP, 29 walks (1.31 BB/9) and 182 Ks (8.20 K/9) in 199 ⅔ over which he was worth a career-best +5.2 fWAR.
Zimmermann ended his sixth major league campaign in the nation's capital with a no-hitter then took the mound in Game 2 of the NLDS and threw 8 ⅔ scoreless before Nats' skipper Matt Williams went to his bullpen.
The two-out walk which ended Zimmermann's outing in D.C. came around to score and tie the game the San Francisco Giants would eventually win in eighteen innings, but Zimmermann ended his year with what were arguably the two strongest starts of his major league career.
In writing about the free agent class of fall 2015 on Saturday, ESPN.com's Buster Olney said that some agents he spoke to told him, "... there has been a nudge from the players' association to get more players into the open market; to not settle for deals that are perceived to have significant value to teams."
When the Nationals and Zimmermann discussed but failed to agree on a long-term deal before the 2013 campaign, the Auburndale, Wisconsin-born starter told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he was open to a deal if it was a "fair" agreement:
"'It would be nice to stay long term, but it has to be something fair. I'm just not going to do a team-friendly deal just to stay here long term. If it's a fair deal, then obviously, we'll definitely think about it. But I'm not going to give a huge team discount. Just something fair is all I ask.'"
ESPN.com's Mr. Olney suggested that the offers for the 2014 free agent class might "not be as strong" as they may have been in the past at least in part because, "It appears that there is going to be relatively high volume of good and even great pitching that will be available in free agency or trade over the next 15 months, partly because some of them -- Jordan Zimmermann, for example -- have rebuffed overtures from their respective teams."
Olney adds that "rival executives" he's spoken to, "... believe [Zimmermann] is headed into free agency after next season."
Is that wishful thinking on the part of those rival executives?
When FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote, in the lead-up to the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline, about the Nats being in the market for young shortstop in case Ian Desmond, who becomes a free agent after 2015 as well, were to leave the nation's capital, he suggested that some players like Sandy Leon, Steven Souza and Zach Walters might be available in deals, but wrote that the Nationals, "... would be less inclined to move pitchers such as right-handers Lucas Giolito and A.J. Cole," since they might be eventual replacements for Zimmermann in the rotation.
While Rosenthal noted that the Nationals wouldn't consider trading either Zimmermann or Desmond as they fought for a postseason berth, he did write that, "... they could entertain offers for one or both this offseason."
Could the Nationals entertain the idea of trading Zimmermann this winter? Would they be able to get value for him now when other teams know he's likely headed for free agency in 2015?
Can the Nats and the right-hander find the right long-term deal? Could the Nationals just make a qualifying offer at the end of the 2015 campaign and settle for a compensatory draft pick?
Do they need to get more than that in return for a pitcher as talented as Zimmermann if they're going to eventually lose him?