The Brewers have signed veteran right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training, per a team announcement. It’s a homecoming for the Auburndale native and UW-Stevens Point product. He’s represented by ISE Baseball.
Zimmemann, 35 in May, had a much different free-agent experience this time around than his he did in his first foray into the open market, when he was one of the top names available in the 2015-16 offseason. He’d put together an excellent five-year run with the Nationals leading up to that free-agent venture, but the resulting five-year, $110MM investment from the Tigers proved to be a disaster for the Detroit organization.
Three of Zimmerman’s five seasons in Detroit ended with an ERA north of 6.00, including a 2020 season in which he was limited to just 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander’s best year with the Tigers came in 2018, when he tossed 131 1/3 roughly average innings — far from the No. 2/No. 3 type of starter the Tigers hoped to be getting in signing him to that nine-figure deal. On the whole, Zimmermann’s time with the Tigers produced 514 1/3 innings of 5.63 ERA ball with a similarly discouraging 4.80 SIERA and a lackluster 16.3 percent strikeout rate.
For the Brewers, however, there’s no risk in taking a speculative flier on a pitcher who, at least from 2011-15, was one of the game’s more underrated arms. A return to that form shouldn’t be expected — not when his average fastball has dipped about four miles per hour as he’s weathered forearm, back, shoulder and UCL injuries in the past half decade. But Zimmermann’s control remained excellent throughout his Tigers tenure, and he can still generate above-average spin on that depleted four-seamer. If he indeed makes the Brewers’ roster, it’s unlikely to be with the expectation of serving as anything more than a fifth starter or swingman.