The Washington Nationals have done some great work so far this offseason finding players to meet the holes in the roster. They still have a little bit more work to do though if they want to continue to be a force to be reckoned with down the road. That includes signing Jordan Zimmermann to an extension.
If they are going to do so, it doesn’t need to be a huge extension, because of the arms coming through the Minor Leagues that deserve their shot as well. I can see Jordan Zimmermann getting a four year deal, but how much will it cost the Nationals. He has already said that he doesn’t want to make a team friendly deal, that he wants the money that he deserves… Well, just how much is that?
We have seen Clayton Kershaw and David Price sign deals now on back-to-back days with Kershaw being the highest paid pitcher ever, and David Price signing a one-year-deal worth $14 million. Those deals affect the Nationals if you want them to or not. Now a line has been set for some of the elite pitchers in all of baseball. Does Zimmermann meet that elite status? It is hard to say. He has been good, but not David Price good.
Zimmermann has had a WAR above three each of the last three seasons, which should earn him around $15 million a year. FanGraphs even has him valued at $17.8 million. That is a little much for me. I know the market is rising and we are seeing pitchers and position players for that matter getting paid at astronomical numbers, but still. The Nationals can’t afford to pay all of their players at top price. Some of them are going to have to take a team friendly deal at some point.
Mike Rizzo really wants to keep Zimmermann, but is it worth the price he is going to have to pay? Zimmermann has had an ERA+ over 100 the last three seasons and also completed four games in 2013. He is on the rise, but how long until that decline finally catches up to him? If the Nationals sign him to an extension right now, a four year deal, that will buy out the rest of his arbitration, plus one year. Then he becomes a free-agent in 2017 and you re-evaluate.
That would be the smart move to make. He has to continue to prove to be a top of the line pitcher if he wants to be paid like one. If he can continue to do so, then by all means, give him $17 million a year, but that takes away money from Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister when their time comes to be extended. The decision Rizzo is going to have to make is a tough, but he has to make it. Either you give a bunch of money to Jordan Zimmermann and let Strasburg walk, or you do the opposite. That is the choice he has to make. We will soon see how this turns out for both the Nationals overall and Zimmermann’s wallet.