Remember this winter, when there were a few hours (or maybe minutes?) when it looked like Washington Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was going to be dealt to the Chicago Cubs?
Coming off a (14-5), +5.3 fWAR season in D.C. and heading into what could still be his final campaign in the nation's capital if the Nats don't extend him, the idea actually made some sense, so it was picked up quickly everywhere.
Zimmermann, Wittenmyer reasoned, presented the Cubs with a lower-priced, younger alternative to some of the free agents on the market at the time, though, he added "... the player package to acquire him would have to include at least one of their touted young middle infielders."
"One source," he added, said, "...the teams have enough mutual interest that names have been discussed," and "[a]nother said he expected the Cubs to complete the deal."
Within an hour, however, there were multiple reports shooting down the initial rumors from writers covering the Nats and Cubs:
Source says Cubs not getting Zimmermann from Nats and haven't exchanged names, as rumored.— Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) November 12, 2014
Heard from people on both sides there's nothing doing with the Cubs and Nats discussing a trade for Jordan Zimmermann.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) November 12, 2014
The rumors had, however, gained enough traction that Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo said he'd called Zimmermann to assure him there was nothing brewing.
"'I did reach out to 'Zim' after it came out,'" Rizzo explained at the General Manager's meetings, as quoted by the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan.
"'When those things happen and there’s no basis for the story, there’s not a lot I can do about it but try and communicate with the parties that are involved and let them know what our thoughts are.'"
Cubs' President Theo Epstein's only comment was to tell the Tribune's reporter, "... that one kind of took on a life of its own."
Zimmermann told reporters at NatFest in December, that he didn't pay much attention to the chatter.
"I'm really not listening to it," Zimmermann said. "I'm here for another year and I'm just getting ready for next year. That's the main focus right now."
Though he started slow, Zimmermann has picked it up in recent outings and heading into tonight's matchup with the Cubs in Wrigley Field, the right-hander is (4-2) on the year with a 3.52 ERA, a 3.01 FIP, 11 walks (1.84 BB/9) and 36 Ks (6.04 K/9) in 53 ⅔ IP.
Could the Cubs be a potential suitor if Zimmermann does indeed become a free agent this winter?
CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney wrote this morning that the Cubs, "... have kept their eyes on Zimmermann for a long time, identifying him as a top target as they look for potential opportunities to upgrade as this window of contention begins to open."
Current Cubs' pitching coach Chris Bosio watched Zimmermann when the righty was pitching for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers back before the Nationals drafted him, Mooney noted.
Zimmermann, however, said he hadn't given the possibility any thought:
"Obviously, they got a good ballclub full of young talent," Zimmermann said. "I’m not looking forward to free agency quite yet. I’m focused on this year and trying to win a World Series with the Nats."
Zimmermann will be looking for his first career win in Wrigley tonight after going (0-3) in his previous six outings in the Cubs' home, with a 6.27 ERA in 18 ⅔ IP, over which Chicago's hitters have a combined .297/.329/.622 line.