Non-Tender Candidate: Joel Zumaya

The deadline for teams to offer contracts to players with fewer than six years of service time is less than two weeks away. An entirely new batch of free agents will hit the market as clubs non-tender guys they a) don't want, b) can't afford, or c) usually a combination of both. One player that's on the bubble was one of the game's most electrifying rookies just a few years ago, Joel Zumaya of the Tigers.

Zumaya burst onto the scene as a 21-year-old in 2006 with a season that was straight out of a video game. He threw 83 1/3 innings of relief, striking out 97 batters and allowing just 18 earned runs to score (1.94 ERA) before chipping in another six innings of relief work during Detroit's march to the World Series. His fastball routinely exceeded 100 mph and batters mustered just a .187/.287/.270 batting line against. Zumaya did, however, miss some time in October after suffering tendinitis in his wrist while playing Guitar Hero, and it was pretty much all downhill from there.

The 2007 season featured a lengthy (107 days) stint on the disabled list because of a ruptured tendon in his finger, and when Zumaya was on the mound he pitched to a 4.28 ERA in 33 2/3 innings. The righty then separated the AC joint in his throwing shoulder after the season while helping his father move boxes as wildfires approached the family home in San Diego. Zumaya started the 2008 season on the DL but made it back in June, pitching to a 3.47 ERA in 23 1/3 innings. He ended the year like he started it, on the DL with a shoulder injury. This time it was a stress fracture.

Zumaya started the 2009 campaign on the DL but was activated in late April. He threw 31 innings through mid-July (4.94 ERA), but his season ended there because of another stress fracture in his shoulder. This one required surgery. Zumaya was healthy enough to start the 2010 season with the Tigers, and he boasted an impressive 2.58 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 38 1/3 innings through June. His fastball was again humming in the triple digits and Detroit had one of the game's best setup men in their bullpen. But again, it did not last. Zumaya's season ended on June 28th in Minnesota, when he fractured the olecranon in his elbow throwing a pitch, an injury that was particularly horrifying to watch live.

Since that stellar rookie campaign, Zumaya has been able to make more than 30 appearances in a season just once (31 in 2010), and he spent more days on the disabled list (450) than on the active roster (278). All the while his salary climbed from $327K in 2006 to $915K in 2010, and he's about to enter his final season of arbitration eligibility. 

GM Dave Dombrowski recently told MLive.com's James Schmehl that Zumaya would be ready for Spring Training, which seems to indicate that the now 26-year-old's rehab is going well. We also know that the Tigers are looking to add pieces to their bullpen, evidenced by the contract they just gave Joaquin Benoit. Normally you'd expect a pitcher as unreliable as Zumaya (because of the injuries, not his actual performance) to get non-tendered, but his salary is reasonably low (even with a slight raise) and Detroit did shed approximately $70MM off of 2010's payroll thanks to expiring contracts.

Tell us what you think; will the Tigers non-tender Zumaya in 12 days, or will they keep him? Click here to vote, and here to view the results. 


45 Responses to Non-Tender Candidate: Joel Zumaya Leave a Reply

  1. Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

    I think the Jose Arredondo of this off-season will be J.P. Howell if anything, not Joel Zumaya.

    • Both J.P Howell and Zumaya will be on the DBACKS uniform lol

      • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

        So they are going to have their faces as logos on the D-Backs uniform along with the “db” snake and the Diamondbacks writing? This isn’t the English Premier League there needs to be room for emptiness!

  2. TXHC 5 years ago

    I think they will keep him. I would keep him. If they don’t then I would like to see the Rangers get in the mix if he can be had for reasonably cheap.

  3. Ian_Smell 5 years ago

    I would love for the Pirates to get him. It is ridiculous to see him freeze batters by dropping a curveball after throwing nothing but fastballs.

    • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

      I hate to see this, but I’d like to see your rival Reds get him…Imagine a combo of Aroldis and a healthy Zumaya…Wow!

      • Ian_Smell 5 years ago

        Even though I really hate the Reds, I enjoyed watching Chapman pitch. He and Zumaya would be really something to see.

    • airohpue13 5 years ago

      As much as a heck of a lot of tigers fans (including myself) are with him he’s not going anywhere nor should he. He’s worth the risk at still a cheap rate. If he can’t stay healthy this year your teams can go ahead and take him away.

  4. deere5800 5 years ago

    What the hell is an olecranon? Either way, I’d like to see the Jays sign him if he’s non-tendered. Seems like the kind of arm AA loves.

    • It’s the point of your elbow. The force of his motion fractured that bone.

      • deere5800 5 years ago

        Yikes, that would probably hurt

        • airohpue13 5 years ago

          Ya the grimace on his face as he and the trainers carried his arm off the field is still ingrained vividly in my memory. It looked terrible.

  5. Guest 5 years ago

    Keep. We still love him. No one quite like him when he’s healthy.

  6. nhsox 5 years ago

    I really wonder if the human body can handle throwing 100 mph on a regular basis.

  7. InLeylandWeTrust 5 years ago

    Zumaya needs to learn how to PITCH. He just throws fastball after fastball after fastball after fastball. It worked for the 1st season, but he needs to get better command of his offspeed pitches. It is incredibly frustrating to watch him just try to get by with his heater. I consider any contributions he makes to the club gravy on top, I don’t expect anything from him really except to get injured every year. He’s the Greg Oden of the Tigers.

    • Have you seen his curveball? It has an amazing break and it such an off-speed pitch (86 mph) compared to a fastball at 102.

      The point is his fastball is so fast that batters have to guess earlier than against most pitchers to make contact. As a result, anything slower than 95 has them way out in front. He could throw a flat pitch right down the middle and the batter still has no chance. But the curveball is a plus plus pitch IMHO. He needs one more pitch to be a knock out bullpen arm and he’s working on a slider but it puts to much pressure on his arm.

  8. EvilEmpireStrikesBack 5 years ago

    I would olve to see the Yanks get him if Kerry Wood signs elsewhere.

  9. Pawsdeep 5 years ago

    Of course the tigers are going to keep him. His contract is for less than a million and the risk/reward with this guy is off the charts. If he’s healthy then he’s worth 5 times what they are paying him and if he’s not then they are out something to the tune of 800,000. After how long they’ve stuck behind him they would be plain freaking retarded not to keep him for such a small contract

  10. Chapman+Zumeya+Masset+Cordero would be one hard throwing back end of the bullpen

    • Same thing with the tigers. Zumaya, Perry, Benoit, Valverde, Coke, Schlereth and Weinhardt. Every one of them is over 95+ MPH right?

  11. bigpupp 5 years ago

    How much are they really expecting him to get in arbitration? It’s not as if he has stayed healthy long enough to gather the stats needed for a big paycheck. Then you have to consider that if healthy he would outperform whatever his paycheck will be anyways…

    If anything they will tender him a contract and trade him. They could easily get a organization filler for an arm like his.

  12. There is no way in hell they non-tender Zumaya. Three reason: Dombrowski has a chubby for power arms (guys throwing 100+ don’t exactly grow on trees ya know), the Tigers’ bullpen isn’t deep moving forward, and Illitch is about as careful with his money as Bernie Madoff. The 1 mm isn’t even a blip on the radar.

    • snapcase8p 5 years ago

      The Tigers bullpen is extremely deep. Just inexperienced. Look at the transaction board this past month and Tiger castoffs are getting picked up left and right.

    • InLeylandWeTrust 5 years ago

      I don’t know if you mean “moving forward” as in this season, or the potential of our bullpen for the furture. But if you meant the latter, then you are mistaken. Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth, and if you want to count Zumaya all have closer-type stuff. Robbie Wienherdt (too lazy to look up spelling) was solid in the beginning of the season but faltered later on. And those were just the youngsters who contributed at the major lg level.

      • You hit the nail on the head: potential. Supposedly Perry and Schlereth are going to be studs. Perry has shown flashes but has been mostly inconsistent and/or unreliable. Schlereth has dominated minor leaguers, but so have lots of guys. He and Weinhardt are inexperienced and unproven. We all know the injury history of Zumaya.What do they really have this year (and beyond) they can count on? Valverde and Benoit if they stay healthy. Beyond that, it’s just potential. Granted, the upside is tremendous, as Leyland would say, but they are certainly not the experienced, proven commodities we’ve seen in Minneapolis in recent years. I would feel even worse about the situation with a Zumaya non-tender…I’ll pay for his upside any day.

  13. snapcase8p 5 years ago

    I’m all for keeping Zoom-Zoom. Dominant, filthy stuff at a discount price. Although I find it ironic that he breaks down as much as a Mazda. Worse comes to worse, we can have insurance pick up his paycheck along with Guillen’s. Atleast now with Benoit we’re not counting on him, or handing it to Perry who just hasn’t owned it yet.

  14. I think they’ll keep him too. The injuries have to give them pause but they also limit what he’s going to get financially. It’d be tough to see him go somewhere else and finally have a healthy season. It makes sense to take another inexpensive chance on him. If he were in line for $6 million with the same history then yeah, non-tender him, but since he’s not it only makes sense to keep him.

  15. missyae 5 years ago

    I expect the Tigers will keep him but if they don’t the Red Sox might try him in their overhaul of their bullpen. So many options for their bullpen, it’s gonna be interesting to see if they go with reliable, proven guys or younger, cheaper alternatives. Probably cheaper.

  16. $3977112 5 years ago

    As a Yankee fan, Zumaya can go suck a Kak! Whoever posted earlier about wanting him in pinstripes is dreaming cause he openly admitted to hating the Yanks in the past. Zumaya can eat sh** and die.

    • The_Silver_Stacker 5 years ago

      please never post on this board … ever

    • DanHaren 5 years ago

      Maybe you cant handle zumaya heat.

    • verlander 5 years ago

      //Zumaya can eat sh** and die.//

      That’s a bit excessive, don’t you think.

    • Yeah and a rookie Zumaya made A-Rod look dumb at the plate in the ALCS, 3 straight 102 MPH pitches down the middle and left his bat on his shoulder.

  17. bjsguess 5 years ago

    He stays. No brainer. Just don’t expect some multi-year deal being offered by Detroit.

  18. Too bad Zumaya can’t be the subject of a research study about just how much velocity an arm can or should handle. I had an interesting conversation with a scout who believed guys like Bob Feller and Bob Gibson didn’t throw nearly as hard as most relievers today which is why the big innings totals from pitchers are a thing of the past.

    • Clearly the speed is killing his arm. You can see the stress on each pitch. Youtube the pitch where he broke his arm. You can see in the windup the stress on the arm already.

      If he could dial it down 2-3 MPH he should be much healthier and still way too fast for most guys. He hits 102 regularly but what there are 7 guys who can hit 100 and they do it a dozen times a season at the most? Sitting at 99 MPH he’d still be the faster pitcher.

  19. Zumaya’s not going anywhere. He made under $ 1 million last season, he spent most of the season on the DL, so he shouldn’t get much of a raise. He’ll be back. Just hope that the Tigers are not dumb enough to count on him to the point of avoiding other legit set up men to work with Benoit.

    The Tigers counted on Zumaya in 2007, and got burned. The Tigers counted on Zumaya in 2008, and got burned. The Tigers counted on Zumaya in 2009, and got burned. The Tigers counted on Zumaya in 2010, and got burned. See a pattern?

    Whatever Zoomer gives the Tigers, we’ll take it because he is so dynamic when he’s on. Just don’t count on him and now get that set up man that is still missing to compliment Benoit.

    • Tom 5 years ago

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. Counting on him in 07/08 I can sort of forgive, after that was inexcusable. I really hope Dombrowski doesn’t pull the “we have a minor league system chock full of major league ready relievers and doesn’t sign another COMPETENT bullpen arm.

  20. Motor_City_Bombshell 5 years ago

    The Tigers will ride Zumaya until his arm falls off. He’s a dominant reliever when healthy, but he can’t stay healthy. A full season from Zumaya would be an effective one, but I feel like he’ll never have one.

    • Tom 5 years ago

      Agree 100%, Tigers would be fools not to stick with him…he’d leave and have a probably have a healthy season.

  21. verlander 5 years ago

    I don’t think Zumaya will be non-tendered.

  22. This guy is an almost unparalleled specimen with a ten cent brain. As much as I love seeing the gun flash triple digits, I hate hearing about youtube videos of him doing keg stands or falling off dirt bikes when he’s in the off season. Like another commenter said, counting on this guy is setting yourself up to fail. I am all for taking a flyer on him, but I still advocate for finding another setup man once we secure some bats.

  23. The_Silver_Stacker 5 years ago

    jealous much?

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