Zimmermann the Cub would be a nice fit

CHICAGO -- He’s left town with the Washington Nationals but could starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann be back this winter? Zimmermann is part of a deep impending free-agent class of hurlers which the Chicago Cubs are undoubtedly keeping an eye on as they continue to grow into a contending team.

Zimmermann fits the profile as 29-year old who is 61-42 in his career after earning a no-decision against the Cubs on Tuesday night. Durability, as much as anything else, will be high on any team’s list when spending big money; Zimmermann has made 32 starts in each of the past three seasons. And maybe more important than anything, he is a Midwestern native.

“I live in Wisconsin,” he said after pitching seven innings on Tuesday. “I grew up in Wisconsin. I still live there and I don’t see myself moving out of Wisconsin. I enjoy it too much up there to move anywhere else.”

So maybe that means the Milwaukee Brewers have a shot at him, but it's the Cubs with the money these days, not Milwaukee. And acquiring more pitching is still a priority.

“The biggest thing I think about, sort of day and night, is pitching depth,” general manager Jed Hoyer said recently. “A lot of times that determines a team’s success.”

Zimmermann isn’t a depth guy -- he’s a legit top-of-the-rotation starter. Since 2011 his ERA at the end of a season has never been higher than 3.25 and he’s a former 19-game winner. Last season, he went 14-5 with a career low 2.66 ERA. Though his strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.93) is down so far this year he’s still throwing well at 4-2 with a 3.26 ERA. It means he’s going to get paid.

“I’m not going to get into that too much,” Zimmermann said. “I can’t look ahead to free agency too much. I have no clue what to expect. Just trying to make it through the year.”

It’s understandable considering Zimmermann is playing on a World Series contender and isn’t about to show his hand as the biggest offseason of his life approaches. And of course the Cubs have to be interested in him as well. An industry source outside the organization believes Zimmermann, lefty David Price and Jeff Samardzija are among those on the Cubs' “list.” There’s sure to be others as the starting pitching class available this winter is as deep as ever. Zimmermann’s agent is based in Chicago as well.

“I would have to sit down and think about all that stuff,” Zimmermann said.

One thing we know is the Cubs aren’t done adding impact pitching. They indicated last offseason it would be an “18 month” process. Obviously it will go on past that time frame but it covers both last offseason, this year’s trade season and next winter as well. Like the other top starters, Zimmermann could get a $100 million-plus deal. After adding Jon Lester there’s no reason to think the Cubs will stop there. And for once they might not have to fight the allure of playing on either coast.

“I still live in the Midwest,” Zimmermann said. “I like this area.”