The Washington Nationals made three selections in the 2007 Draft before their second-round pick came up at no.67.
At that point they had a decision to make, but they couldn't come to an agreement. There was a difference of opinion among the front office executives and scouts gathered in the nation's capital, as now-former general manager Jim Bowden explained in a 2011 segment of his show on MLB Network Radio.
"Everybody's lists are different," Bowden explained. "We got to the point of Jordan Zimmermann and it was extremely interesting in how the process would go. I would leave, I'd go down to the clubhouse, I'd come back up and check and there seemed to be some controversy about Jordan Zimmermann's name. And this was a guy that Kris Kline, one of the crosscheckers and Mike Rizzo really wanted. The rest of the room, which I respect equally, the rest of the room sat there and said, 'This is a real over-draft, if you leave him that high on the board it's going to be a huge over-draft, you can get him later in the draft.'"
As their pick approached, Zimmermann was still undrafted, so Bowden asked again.
"I kept looking at Mike Rizzo and Kris Kline," he explained, "and they kept looking at me going, 'The one thing we know is that [Zimmermann] is going to be in the rotation in the big leagues fast and he's going to be at least a three starter in the middle. He's gonna get there and he's gonna get there quick.'"
Bowden listened to Rizzo, who would one day replace him as GM, and Kline, who would go on to become the scouting director under Rizzo and an assistant general manager.
The Nationals selected Zimmermann 67th overall, with one of two compensation picks they received when Alfonso Soriano left as a free agent, and signed him to a $495,000 bonus after a junior year at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point which saw the Auburndale, Wisconsin-born right-hander go (10-0) with two saves, a 2.08 ERA 18 walks (2.08 BB/9) and 90 Ks (10.38 K/9) in 13 games and 78 innings pitched.
Two years later, he made his major league debut. Zimmermann underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009, but he was back in the majors a year later, and by 2012, the then-26-year-old was a 12-game winner with the NL East Champs.
Zimmermann posted a 2.94 ERA, a 3.51 FIP, 43 walks (1.98 BB/9) and 153 Ks (7.04 K/9) that season, and went on to win 19 games in 2013, while posting a 3.25 ERA, a 3.36 FIP, 40 walks (1.69 BB/9) and 161 Ks (6.79 K/9).
His 2014 campaign, arguably his best in the majors, saw Zimmermann go (14-5) in 32 starts with a 2.66 ERA, a 2.66 FIP, 29 walks (1.31 BB/9) and 182 Ks (8.20 K/9).
He finished the year at 5.3 wins above replacement, up from 3.4, 3.3 and 3.7 WAR in the previous three seasons.
In spite of yearly talks, however, Zimmermann and the Nationals couldn't agree on a long-term extension. Rizzo, in an MLB Network Radio interview, talked last winter about wanting and trying to get Zimmermann signed.
"He's one of the elite starting pitchers in the game," Rizzo said. "He's a guy that's near and dear to my heart. We drafted, signed him and developed him and watched him become an All-Star-caliber player."
"We'd certainly love to have him on the club, he's family to us and he's a terrific pitcher."
When the season started, however, and after Washington signed Max Scherzer to a 7-year/$210M deal, it became even more likely that Zimmermann would end up testing free agency at the end of the 2015 campaign, his seventh with the Nationals.
Through 18 starts in the first half, Zimmermann is (8-5) with a 3.22 ERA, a 3.17 FIP, 20 walks (1.61 BB/9) and 81 Ks (6.53 K/9).
Tonight in the nation's capital, Zimmermann will make the first start of the so-called "second-half" of what could very well be his final season in D.C.
The 29-year-old, married father of two, has persevered, worked his way back from Tommy John surgery and has set himself up nicely for a payday at the end of this season. It probably won't come from the Nationals, but he deserves whatever he can get from whatever team is willing to invest in him. Don't begrudge him the opportunity to see what his value is on the free agent market. Don't even think about that now, if possible. Just try to enjoy the second half and appreciate a pitcher Rizzo and Kline believed in enough to fight for, who has rewarded their faith.