Jordan Zimmermann came out on the other side of Tommy John surgery as both an example to Stephen Strasburg and a legitimate No. 2 starter. At 25, he ranked among the top 25 in the majors in ERA (3.18) FIP (3.15) and wins above replacement (3.5). The Nationals, really, could not have hoped more out of him this year.
Now that he has reached his 160-inning limit, what comes next? Well, in regard to the Nationals’ rotation, the happenings in Class AAA Syracuse’s doubleheader last night could be a clue. Both Tom Milone and Brad Peacock tossed five scoreless innings. Either could replace Zimmermann in the rotation Saturday and remain on schedule. Milone, who’s older and more polished, is the more likely choice.
The Nationals could also decide to simply use a four-man rotation the next time through, taking advantage of yesterday’s off day. That would hold them over until Sept. 6, our best-guess (guess!) date for Strasburg’s first start. We should get some answers from Davey Johnson, or at least a hint or two, today.
And for Zimmermann? He’ll stay with the Nationals and soak up the games until the season ends. At that point, it will get more interesting. Zimmermann’s excellent comeback season made him — and this is just in my estimation — a candidate for a contract extension.
The parameters and likelihood of a potential extension for Zimmermann will depend on how his service time shakes out.
It could be a close call if Zimmermann is eligible for salary arbitration after this season. Quick refresher: A player becomes eligible for salary arbitration after three full seasons or if he ranks among the top 17 percent in service time among players with more than two years of service time but less than three. That second class of players is known as “Super 2” players.
Zimmermann was originally called up about a month into the 2009 season, and last year he spent about a month in the minors, not technically on rehab because the Nationals optioned him once his rehab stint ran past 30 days. (When a player is on the disabled list after suffering an injury in the majors, as Zimmermann was for so long, he still collects service time.)
Add it up, and Zimmermann has accumulated between two and three years of service time. He could have Super 2 status, but the Nationals will not know until the year finishes and MLB tabulates the service from all the players in his class.
The Nationals would probably be more motivated to try for an extension if Zimmerman is a Super 2, but even if not, they still may want to strike a deal that takes Zimmermann through his arbitration years. That’s no certainty, but it has become a somewhat standard procedure for teams and their young stars. It allows the team to maybe save some money, it gives the player less risk and it saves both sides from the prospect of contentious arbitration hearings. It might be logical, and it could make sense for Zimmermann this offseason.
There’s no way for sure to know what will come this winter. For now, we only know that Zimmermann’s 2011 was an unqualified success.
FROM TH E POST
If that wasn’t enough of me spending the Nationals’ money, there’s this story on why the Nationals could/should consider giving Ryan Zimmerman a contract extension now that’s he healthy.
Dan Steinberg delivers one of the stories of the year. How a beer vendor acted fast and maybe saved a boy’s life at Nationals Park.
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 4, Lehigh Valley 0 (Game 1): Tom Milone allowed no runs in five innings on one hit and two walks, striking out five. Matt Antonelli went 2 for 2 with a home run and a walk. Roger Bernadina went 1 for 4 with a home run.
Syracuse 4, Lehigh Valley 0 (Game 2): Brad Peacock allowed no runs in five innings on five hits and one walk, striking out seven. Doug Slaten struck out all three batters he faced. Stephen Lombardozzi went 2 for 4 with a double.
Portland 4, Harrisburg 2: Derek Norris went 1 for 4 with a home run and a walk. Danny Rosenbaum allowed four runs in seven innings on five hits and three walks, striking out four.
Potomac was off.
Asheville 12, Hagerstown 11: Adrian Sanchez went 5 for 6. David Freitas went 3 for 5 with a walk. A.J. Cole allowed five runs in 3 2/3 runs on seven hits and one walk, striking out nine.
Jamestown 8, Auburn 7: Angelberth Montilla went 3 for 4 with two doubles.