Jordan Zimmermann and Milwaukee Brewers: Irrational but Intriguing

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 24: Baseball hats with the current logo, left, and retro logo sit on display at Miller Park on April 24, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 24: Baseball hats with the current logo, left, and retro logo sit on display at Miller Park on April 24, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Too much baggage prevents a trade between the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers for Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann, and that’s a shame.

Wouldn’t it be cool, however irrational, if right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers? It’s a natural yearning for fans to see their fellow statesmen playing for the hometown team. Unlike states like California and Florida, though, it’s quite rare for this phenomenon to occur in the Badger State.

Zimmermann reportedly cleared trade waivers and could be dealt by the Detroit Tigers if an arrangement could be found. It’s exceedingly unlikely but difficult to resist the thought of a Wisconsin native potentially shoring up the 2018 Brewers’ rotation.

Some precedent exists, however. Bob Uecker, the iconic radio voice of the Brewers, played for the Milwaukee Braves, of course.

Wisconsinites to have played for the Brewers include, in alphabetical order: Jerry Augustine (Kewaunee), Jim Gantner (Fond Du Lac), Damian Miller (La Crosse), Vinny Rottino (Racine) and Bob Wickman (Green Bay).

Eric Hinske (Menasha), Pat Neshek (Madison), and Jarrod Washburn (La Crosse) are players that perhaps came close to being Brewers at one time or another.

Another of those is the formerly great National and current mediocre Tiger, Jordan Zimmermann of Auburndale, Wisconsin. A tiny town in Wood County, Auburndale is almost smack dab in the middle of the state, near Stevens Point.

In the fall of 2015 a few rumors popped up that new free agent Zimmermann and the Brewers could have some mutual interest, but the timing was all wrong and the money too voluminous.

The Brewers were rebuilding and the Tigers gave Zimm a five-year deal worth $110MM. The contract is back-loaded, too, meaning not only would the player have to consent to waive his no-trade clause to change teams this season, but he’s still owed $50MM of those dollars over the remaining two full seasons of the contract (through the 2020 season).

All of that is on top of the back-busting $24MM that Zimmermann is earning this year. In short, the only way the Auburndale native comes to Milwaukee is if Detroit is willing to simply punt Zimmermann as a sunk cost and eat at least $35-40MM of the money owed just to move on and free up a rotation spot for a younger player.

The Brewers, with a rotation that seems to teeter on the edge of practicality, could use Zimmermann. His first two and half seasons in Detroit have been a bit bumpy but he had many fine years with Washington, including two All-Star campaigns and four straight seasons making at least 32 starts and producing an average ERA of 3.12 from 2012-2015. Zimmermann rarely has been a truly dominant pitcher, but has posted very good numbers in his career.

The 32-year-old Zimmermann also carries a lot of big-league experience. He has only appeared in the post-season in two seasons, but has been a MLB regular for nearly 10 years. He might be a nice addition to a clubhouse that largely features young and/or untested pitchers.

Zimmermann has also been throwing pretty well of late, putting up a 3.73 ERA in his last seven starts, covering 41 innings pitched and about five strikeouts per start. If only the contract situation wasn’t such an albatross, a deal might even be likely.

The Tigers still have to put a team on the field at the major league level and it’s not as if Zimmermann, even with a reduced on-field ability from his prime years, has nothing to offer in his present situation. Zimmermann could mentor Detroit’s up and comers and he can still get results.

It would take a motivated Tigers front office to get something done before the month is out and post-season eligibility goes kaput. Detroit would have to accept a nominal return and be willing to swallow at minimum $30MM for a Wisconsin homecoming to even eek into the realm of a potential happening. A trade would only make sense for Milwaukee if the dollar amount taken on would be extremely reasonable, if not negligible.

In reality, too much baggage in the form of money owed to Zimmermann will likely prevent a move to Milwaukee or anywhere else this summer. He still has value and it would be great to see a Wisconsinite on the mound for the Brew Crew, but the contract is a monumental hindrance, probably too big to bear. And that’s a shame.