Jordan Zimmermann has signed with the Detroit Tigers, taking one of the four free agents with some claim to the title of "ace" out of the picture for the Red Sox. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports had it first.
For Boston, Zimmermann being out of the picture might not make much of a difference. With every passing day, it seems more and more clear that the Sox have their sights locked on David Price to lead their rotation. At five years and $110 million, Zimmermann's deal also hasn't landed too far from where it was expected to, which might mean its impact on the overall market for top starting pitching is minimal. Yes, Zimmermann is the first domino to fall, but his deal only shows that the market is following the script.
The question should be asked whether or not the Sox should have been in on Zimmermann at that price, but I think that's a hard question to answer at this point. Zimmermann, lest we forget, is a very good pitcher. Too often it seems he gets the short end of the stick just because people are judging him against the expectations of an ace and decided if he's not that then he's not terribly good. But he has a 123 ERA+ over the last 5 years, which is not far off Price's mark of 127 and, in fact, better than Jon Lester's of 117. He's also actually the youngest of the Price - Greinke - Cueto - Zimmermann quartet.
Personally, I think this deal looks very good for the Tigers. If Zimmermann is the pitcher he was in 2015, then he'll perhaps be slightly overpaid for the next five years, but probably not even that, should the price of talent continue to rise over that period. At his age, they shouldn't have much reason to worry about serious decline over the course of his contract--certainly not early on--and if 2015 proves to just be a down year and he can bounce even halfway back to his 2014 self, then Zimmermann might well prove the bargain of the offseason.
Rival GMs expect Red Sox to sign David Price
The Red Sox seem to have locked in on their preferred target, if everyone else is to be believed.
Does that mean the Sox should have been the ones to make this deal, though? Or even top it slightly? Not necessarily. The Red Sox have tons of pitchers, and a few good ones to boot. What they're looking for isn't to revolutionize their rotation, but to give it a big boost through one change. Jordan Zimmermann would give them a boost, yes, but the Sox seem to be out to maximize that, and Zimmermann is not the man to do that when compared to Price, Greinke, or even Cueto (whose ceiling is as high as ever, but comes with a frighteningly low floor).
Is the difference between Zimmermann and Price--who might well walk away with a Scherzer-level deal of $210 million over seven years--as large as all that? Probably not. But there is a gap there that leaves Price the more valuable player in a vacuum, and outside of said vacuum, he's the player who better suits what the Red Sox really need. The same can pretty much be said for Greinke, though Price has the added benefit of not costing a draft pick. If the Red Sox come away from this with one of those players without going entirely insane to get them, it won't make this deal any worse for the Tigers, but it will be easy to understand why the Sox weren't interested in making it themselves.