Detroit Tigers: Jordan Zimmermann injury opens door for others

(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

Who will step up into the recently vacated fifth spot in the Detroit Tigers rotation to start the 2020 MLB season?

Yesterday, the Detroit Tigers placed starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann who was set to enter the final year of his contract on the 45-day injured reserved list with a forearm strain.  With the 2020 MLB season shortened to just 60-games, rather than implementing the regular 60-day injured list, teams have the option between a ten-day and 45-day list.

There is still a chance that Zimmermann can return late this summer and make a few starts if his forearm deems him to be healthy enough, and it’s in his best interest to return amid a contract year.

The Zimmermann signing hasn’t worked out for the Tigers.  Detroit signed Zimmermann to a lucrative five-year contract worth $110-million leading up to the start of the 2016 MLB season.  It was a contingency plan after the organization failed to reach an agreement with super-star talent Max Scherzer, allowing him to walk in free agency to Washington, who inked the ace to a seven-year deal worth $210-million.

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Sure, its massive money, but we’re talking an average of $8-million per season.  It’s a decision that’s haunted me since 2016.  Detroit was hell-bent on shedding team salary, that’s what they proved by allowing Scherzer to walk in ’15 only to sign Zimmermann the following year.  Detroit was looking for somewhat similar production for pennies on the dollar difference.

The production Zimmermann enjoyed in the National League never made the transition to a robust American League.  Over his seven seasons with Washington, Zimmermann produced a 70-50 record that included a very respectable 3.32 ERA and 1.159 WHIP over 1,094 innings pitched.  Zimmermann also enjoyed a strikeout rate of 7.4 per nine innings pitched.

It’s been a story of two Zimmermann’s if you ask Tigers fans.  In four seasons with Detroit, Zimmermann has pitched 508.2 innings producing a laughable 5.61 ERA to go with a 1.431 WHIP.  The veteran right-hander has also allowed nearly 11 hits per nine innings of work with the Tigers over two more from his time in Washington.  With the Detroit Tigers, Zimmermann has provided his club with a strikeout rate of 6.4 per nine, significantly less than his time in Washington.

Despite his sub-par performance in a Tigers’ uniform, Zimmermann was expected to earn a spot in the Detroit rotation this season.  Yes, even after a 1-13 record from a year ago.  The Detroit Tigers are expected to harness their young prospects during this shortened season.  The organization doesn’t want to burn the service time of the highly touted prospects knowing they are not ready to compete for a playoff spot in 2020.

What will the Detroit Tigers rotation look like entering the 2020 season?

That being said, prepare yourself to suffer through 60-games of Tigers baseball this season that includes a starting rotation of Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Ivan Nova, Michael Fulmer, and either Daniel Norris or Tyler Alexander.

I expect Norris to solidify himself in Detroit’s rotation, but he’s currently on the IR after testing positive for COVID-19.  If Norris isn’t stretched out and ready to start when his turn in the rotation comes up in about a week from now, expect lefty Tyler Alexander to take the baseball for manager Ron Gardenhire the first time through.

Next. 3 pitchers to watch during 2020 shortened season. dark

Norris went 3-13 last year with an ERA of 4.49 and a WHIP of 1.330.  Tyler Alexander made eight starts in 2019, going 1-4 to go along with a 4.86 ERA and 1.398 WHIP.