- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2015

DETROIT — Jordan Zimmermann didn’t want to wait long to make his decision on where he’d pitch next season. The Detroit Tigers didn’t want to wait to retool their rotation, either.

Zimmermann, who spent his first seven seasons with the Washington Nationals, signed a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers on Monday, then was introduced in a press conference at Comerica Park.

“One of the biggest things is they had me as their top target, and other teams that were out there, I was a second and third option for others,” Zimmermann said. “All along, I didn’t want to wait until January or February. I wanted to sign early. We knew what my value was. I thought I was a good fit. It’s a big ballpark and a great place to pitch, and for the most part, we got the deal done pretty quick, and I can get ready for spring training.”

Zimmermann, a right-hander, will be paid $18 million in each of the next two seasons, $24 million in 2018 and $25 million in each of the final two years. As part of the agreement, which the team outlined on Monday, he has a full-no trade provision through 2018, then can be dealt to 10 teams without his permission in 2019 and 2020.

The 29-year-old right-hander went 13-10 with a 3.66 ERA last season for Washington, striking out 164 with 39 walks. The previous year, he went 14-5 with a 2.66 ERA.

“We felt that he’s a top end of the rotation guy, a horse on the mound who’s going to give you 200 innings,” general manager Al Avila said. “He’s going to take the ball all the time. He’s going to battle out there. The type of makeup [he has] — I mean, you wouldn’t believe how many messags I’ve gotten from players who have played with him over the years about what kind of guy he is.

“He’s a leader. He’s a quiet leader and he leads by example. It’s not just about his ability to pitch and his ability to win games, but it’s also about the type of person and character that he brings to the Detroit Tigers, and this is what we’re trying to do.”

By signing Zimmermann, who was given a qualifying offer by the Nationals earlier this month, Detroit will forfeit its second-round pick in June’s amateur draft. Washington will gain a compensation selection, No. 38 overall.
Zimmermann was the first free agent among the 17 with compensation attached to sign a contract.

Seeking their first World Series title since 1984, the Tigers slipped last season in large part because their rotation declined after Max Scherzer signed with Washington as a free agent. Zimmermann is heading in the other direction, joining a Detroit starting staff that includes Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez.

Detroit has been active early this offseason under Avila, who was promoted to general manager when Dave Dombrowski was let go shortly after last season’s trade deadline. Detroit has also traded for closer Francisco Rodriguez and outfielder Cameron Maybin, and the signing of Zimmermann is a sign that the Tigers are still willing to make a big financial commitment to putting a winning team on the field.

Detroit traded high-priced stars David Price and Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of last season, acquiring several pitching prospects, including left-hander Daniel Norris. The Tigers were encouraged with Verlander’s pitching down the stretch, and Sanchez’s ability to bounce back from a disappointing 2015 should be crucial.

Detroit still has Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez signed to expensive contracts. Cabrera was outstanding when healthy last season, and Verlander shook off injury problems of his own to post a 3.38 ERA.

Even with Zimmermann in the fold, the Tigers may have their work cut out for them. After four consecutive years atop the American League Central, the Tigers were last in 2015, finishing 74-87. The World Series champion Kansas City Royals, the improving Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians, with a rotation that has plenty of potential, will make the division competitive again.

Zimmermann donned a navy-and-white No. 27 on Monday — the same number he wore with the Nationals. He can’t wait to put it on again.

“I’m excited to get this jersey on Opening Day and get out there and start playing some meaningful games,” Zimmermann said. “It’s going to be a fun time.”

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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