Could Cleveland Indians Trade for Jordan Zimmermann?

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Jordan Zimmermann Is an Option for Tribe via Trade

With Max Scherzer officially joining the Washington Nationals, Washington GM Mike Rizzo may dangle Jordan Zimmermann as trade bait. The Nationals were projected by ESPN Insider’s Buster Olney to have baseball’s top rotation before Rizzo was able to ink Scherzer to a 7-year, $210-million deal. With Scherzer in the fold, Rizzo may be able to get Major League talent in return, as well as top prospects, in a deal similar to the Jeff Samardzija trade between the A’s and White Sox earlier this offseason.

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Why Zimmermann Makes Sense

It is no secret that the Indians covet starting pitching depth. GM Chris Antonetti is on record several times advocating for a rotation seven or eight guys deep. He has done his part to make that a reality, inking Gavin Floyd to complement Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, emerging star Carlos Carrasco, and young guns Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and TJ House. Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister provide further depth. However, the Tribe appears open to further improving the AL’s second-best rotation from after the All-Star break a year ago. The Indians were present at veteran Johan Santana’s most recent throwing session as he attempts a comeback. They have also been linked to former Royals All-Star and ace James Shields in recent weeks.

So, it would be no surprise for the Indians to at least check in on Zimmermann. The Tribe has lots of young pitching they could dangle in return, as well as depth options like McAllister and Tomlin. Antonetti could package a young lefty reliever like Kyle Crockett or Nick Hagadone, given their commitment to Marc Rzepczynski. He could also deal from his infield depth, with Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Francisco Lindor, Zach Walters, Giovanny Urshela and Mike Aviles all expected to see playing time at the Major League level in 2015. The outfield is also crowded, and perhaps players like Tyler Holt, David Murphy, James Ramsey, Nick Swisher or Michael Bourn would be of interest to the Nats.

A trade for Zimmermann would communicate to the fans that ownership and the front office are committed to winning now, and perhaps get more fans in the seats this season. Zimmermann’s 2.66 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 182 K, and 19.1 K-BB percentage would look incredible slotted beneath Cy Kluber, and he should be plenty enough to get even “That Guy” excited about the 2015 Tribe.

Why Zimmermann is Likely Headed Elsewhere

The argument here is simple: Zimmermann is 28 years-old and has only one year of team control left before he hits the open market, where he will command a sizable raise which the small-market Tribe likely can’t afford. Accordingly, he would likely be a rental for the Tribe, and an incredibly expensive rental at that. Unless the Indians can find a way to extend him or lower the Nationals’ asking price significantly, it may not be worth sacrificing valuable prospects for one run at a title.

Final Prediction

The Indians will not touch Zimmermann and his one year of control with a ten foot pole – sorry “That Guy” – but they will continue their cautious pursuit of James Shields in a fashion similar to the 2013 signing of Michael Bourn. Should Shields’ asking price fall below $100 million, look for the Tribe to be right in the mix.

Statistics via Fangraphs

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