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Detroit Tigers trade idea: Jordan Zimmermann gets dealt, team doesn’t have to eat any money

New York Mets, Washington Nationals , Washington Nationals trades, Detroit Tigers, Detroit Tigers trades, Jordan Zimmermann, Jordan Zimmermann trade,

As recently as the 2017 season, the Detroit Tigers payroll was in a bloated situation, to say the least.

The litany of veteran contracts on the books included Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez, Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez. Per Spotrac, the team was paying each of that group at least $10 million, if not much more in the case of Verlander, Cabrera and others.

Jose Iglesias and J.D. Martinez’ deals were still on the books and Detroit was still paying players no longer on the roster like Mike Pelfrey, Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Lowe.

Things are decidedly different now.

Most of those players’ financial commitment are off the books. Detroit is still reportedly (according to Spotrac)paying Houston some money to cover a portion of Verlander’s salary, while only Cabrera and Zimmermann remain on the active roster.

Some of the aforementioned group’s respective contracts expired, while some were traded for prospects and salary relief. With Cabrera seemingly set in Detroit for the long haul given his equal parts lengthy and hefty contract, Jordan Zimmermann is the last veteran standing who could be traded.

It’s much easier said than done with the 32-year-old taking home $25 million in each of the next two seasons and some no-trade protection. He’s also been limited by injuries somewhat as a Tiger and has managed just a 3.2 fWAR and a 4.88 FIP in 396.2 innings since 2016.

Still, if the Dodgers have taught the baseball world anything over the last few years it is that bloated contracts can be flipped.

Here’s how the Detroit Tigers could trade Jordan Zimmermann.

(All salary information via Spotrac.)
(This is all purely speculative mind you.)

Tigers acquire: Martin Prado and Eric Thames

Marlins acquire: Jordan Zimmermann, Blaine Hardy, Matthew Boyd and Mikie Mahtook

Brewers acquire: Starlin Castro

There’s a lot to unpack here. Like a lot a lot.

While the Tigers could easily pay down Zimmermann’s deal to make him more moveable, there’s more than one way to accomplish the feat that is moving him.

And another way to trade the veteran is to attach other, cheaper players to the transaction.

And admittedly, parting with Hardy and Boyd—two of Detroit’s best remaining trade chips—would sting a bit. But neither are exactly a healthy and effective Michael Fulmer in terms of trade value. There’s only so much value a team can get out of a quality back-end or mid-rotation starter, regardless of controllability.

At this point, the Tigers may be better off packaging their trade chips in order to maximize the return. In this deal, the return wouldn’t necessarily be prospects, but the financial flexibility to spend on veterans (Justin Verlander reunion tour anyone?) to augment the 2020 nucleus of young players with an eye towards contending.

Said nucleus will include some combination of Michael Fulmer, Christin Stewart, Casey Mize, Jeimer Candelario, Joe Jimenez, Matt Manning, Daz Cameron, Isaac Paredes and Franklin Perez.

In the short term, the Tigers would acquire Prado’s expiring contract and Thames. Prado could simply be designated for assignment or used as a versatile utility piece. He hasn’t played much first base in his career and last played second base in 2015, but Detroit could try him at the two positions to both limit Miguel Cabrera’s time in the field and serve as a stop gap of sorts at the keystone.

Then there’s Thames. Like Prado, he can be a free agent after 2019. The slugger is making $6 million in 2019 and can be bought out of his 2019 salary of $7.5 million for $1 million. If he’s bought out, that’s only a $7 million investment in a player who could make the on-field product a whole lot more fun and watchable for fans in 2019.

The 32-year-old’s serious raw power would be godsend for a Tigers lineup that finished with the third-lowest ISO in baseball last season. Hitting him in the middle of the lineup with Cabrera, Stewart and Candelario may actually lead to, you know, runs being scored on a consistent basis. Also, like Prado, his positional flexibility would be a positive as well. Thames can man first base with Cabrera at designated hitter, while also occasionally filling in as a right fielder.

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Miami and Milwaukee’s trade hauls

Zimmermann, Boyd and Hardy, would slot into Miami’s rotation and help ease the pressure on Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Richards and Caleb Smith. The Fish need some veteran help now, and could in the future, especially if they flip Dan Straily and Jose Urena at some point in the next year.

Adding Zimmermann’s contract may seem like a lot of money, but in terms of fWAR and the value of a win in dollars, it isn’t so bad.

In a look at free-agent pricing in an article for FanGraphs in 2017, Matt Swartz estimated during the 2017 that a win (1.0 fWAR) was worth $10.5 million. The number was estimated to be $9.6 million in 2016 and Swartz forecasted that the dollars per WAR in 2019 and 2012 will be $11.7 million and $12.4 million.

In this trade, the Marlins would be trading the salaries of Castro and Prado. The former is making $11.857 million salary in 2019 and can be bought out of his 2020 salary of $16 million for $1 million. So, assuming he’s bought out, that’s $12.857 million in 2019 commitments. Prado is making $15 million.

With Zimmermann, Boyd and Hardy making $25 million, $2.6 million and $1.3 million respectively in 2019, it’s a near push financially for the Fish for the coming season.

Miami would be assuming all their financial commitments going forward.

Take 2020 for example. All three would be under contract.

Let’s assume that Boyd and Hardy each get something like $2 million in raises ahead of next season—which isn’t unreasonable if both can replicate their 2018 form as starters over an entire season—Boyd would make $4.6 million and Hardy would make $3.3 million.

Add those numbers to Zimmermann’s $25 million and you get a grand total of $32.9 million for three rotation spots. That in itself isn’t too bad.

Plus, assuming Zimmermann, Boyd and Hardy combine for a collective 5.0 fWAR in 2020 (not unreasonable, and maybe a bit on the pessimistic side of things from a predicting standpoint), you’re looking at good value. Especially when taking Swartz’ article into account that one win (1.0 fWAR) is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 to $12 million.

Moving forward, the Marlins could then look to flip Boyd or Hardy for more prospects to bolster their rebuilding efforts. They’d certainly hold more trade value than Prado and Castro.

Mahtook would give the Fish a veteran outfielder to patrol the outfield in a similar role to the one Cameron Maybin served last season.

Milwaukee

Thames essentially became surplus to requirements thanks to Jesus Aguilar’s breakout at first last year. Even with Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana gone, there’s Ben Gamel and Hernan Perez to deputize Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain and 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich in the outfield. That leaves Thames without a position, and Milwaukee does have a bit of a glaring hole at second base.

Brewers second baseman ranked 27th in fWAR (-0.1) and 29th in wRC+ (68) last season. Enter Castro, who was quietly solid in his first year in Miami, notching a 2.3 fWAR and a 101 wRC+. Some of his offensive metrics, like the wRC+ and a .315 wOBA, were in-and-around league average. But for a Milwaukee second bae grouping that was decidedly below average in both statistical categories, he’d be a significant upgrade.

By trading Thames ($6 million salary in 2019) for Castro ($11.867 million salary in 2019), the Brewers are essentially paying a little more than a bit under $6 million to acquire Castro. There are a number of worse ways to spend $5.857 million than on a second baseman coming off a 2.3 fWAR campaign.

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