The Washington Nationals allowed Jordan Zimmermann to leave last winter, and it’s a decision that’s worked out for both parties.
The offseason for teams in MLB is a time when decisions regarding the roster are made. These decisions can involve resigning a player that will enter free agency, attempting to sign or trade for a marquee player that can help the club and what role top prospects will have in the upcoming season.
The Washington Nationals faced the first dilemma once the 2015 campaign was over concerning starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. The team was coming off a disappointing season in which they finished just four games over .500.
It would have seemed logical for the club to bring back Zimmermann on a multi-year deal, as he had a solid season in the Nationals’ rotation. The right-hander posted a 3.66 ERA in 201.2 innings and gave up 24 home runs. He showed impeccable control, by issuing just 39 walks.
Zimmermann showed his durability, as he was coming off his fourth consecutive season in which he made at least 32 starts and tossed no fewer than 195 innings. These are the type of results that any team in MLB would love to have from a pitcher in their rotation. However, the Nats had other arms on the staff like Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross that also performed well.
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There wasn’t a pressing need to resign Zimmermann last offseason, considering there were four quality arms beside him. The Washington Nationals let him leave, and he signed a five-year, $110 million contract with the Detroit Tigers. It begs the question, did the Nats make the right move in letting Zimmermann leave?
The club was looking at both the short-term and long-term ramifications regarding Zimmermann, and they made the right decision to let him go. They could have signed him to a similar deal that the Tigers gave him, but this would have had an impact on other pending free agents for the Nats in a couple of seasons.
Zimmermann is off to a great start with the Tigers, as he leads the American League with a 1.10 ERA and has surrendered just two home runs in six starts.
However, it’s not like the Washington Nationals rotation is suffering in 2016. They’re one of the best teams in the National League and the starting staff has played a significant role in this. The rotation is second in the NL with a 2.80 ERA. They have four starters in the rotation that have posted sub-three ERAs, and only Scherzer is currently scuffling (4.60 ERA in seven starts). The great performances by Ross and Tanner Roark have helped to offset the loss of Zimmermann.
The team is also set up for the future as they have a phenomenal pitching prospect in Lucas Giolito. It would have been great for the Nats to have Zimmermann, but the staff hasn’t missed a beat without him.
The club saved some cash by not resigning Zimmermann, and they put the savings to good use. The Nats recently signed Strasburg to a seven-year, $175 million contract. The decision to allow Zimmermann to walk was smart, as it enabled them to resign an essential player to the rotation and created an opportunity for other players to blossom.