By Ashley Scoby
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus knew he wanted right-hander Jordan Zimmermann. But realistically, he didn’t expect it to happen.
Within the span of about 12 hours after Thanksgiving, though, the Tigers threw a five-year, $110 million contract at the former Nationals pitcher. And soon after, they had their man.
“I was a little surprised,” Ausmus said. “I thought it was a little bit of a long shot when you’re targeting one guy as the guy you’d like to have. It’s not always easy to get that guy. It seems easy, but (general manager and vice president of baseball operations) Al (Avila) has got to work in parameters of a budget and you can’t allocate everything to one person or you won’t be able to fill the other holes in the roster.”
Pitching was less of a hole and more of a gaping wound for Detroit this past season. They ranked in the bottom five of MLB in most major pitching categories, and the inconsistencies stretched from the starting rotation to the bullpen.
Enter Zimmermann, who the Tigers believe will help bolster the rotation and provide some stability.
Ausmus and Avila had reached out to several people – former teammates or managers – about Zimmermann, and according to Ausmus, everyone had only good things to say about him.
Coming off a 2009 Tommy John surgery, Zimmermann has struggled with a fading velocity in recent years. Many wonder if his second elbow will last through the end of his new five-year deal. But Avila has said previously that there is risk with every pitcher, and the club believes in what he’s done in recent years.
Zimmermann had a down 2015, but his 2014 provided career highs in ERA (2.66), strikeouts (182) and K/BB (6.28), alongside a no-hitter against the Marlins.
“Zimmermann, you look at the track record and you like the resume, no question,” Ausmus said. “The thing that I liked about him more, even more than the resume is the makeup. This is a guy, you talk to guys that he’s played with, teammates and coaches, he’s a no-nonsense, no-frills, doesn’t care about accolades, doesn’t care about highlight reels. He just wants to take the ball. He’ll take the ball if he’s not 100 percent. He’s not going to complain about it.”
Whether it came as a pleasant surprise or not, Ausmus is ready to move forward with a highly-anticipated starting rotation this year.
“On top of that,” he continued. “He’s pretty good. He, to me, is a perfect fit.”