No apologies for Ubaldo Jimenez
|Ubaldo Jimenez (Photo: AP)|
Ubaldo Jimenez is now a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Ubaldo Jimenez is a staff ace, even if he has been about normal since last August.
Ubaldo Jimenez is worth the price of Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, because he can be an impact player now, while Pomeranz is a ways away, and White has to worry about his finger turning into Adam Miller.
While the wheels didn't fall off of Jimenez's cart, they certainly got a bit more wobbly during the second half of the season. Jimenez made 15 starts in the second half, going 4-7 with a 3.80 ERA. While the 3.80 is nothing to scoff at, clearly he was a different pitcher then the one that dominated the National League during the first half.
In 2011, things started off much worse for the Rockies ace. After making his first start of the season, he went on the DL for the first time in his career with, of all things, a cracked cuticle on his pitching thumb. During that initial start, Jimenez had given up five earned runs in six innings pitched, and was complaining of "grip problems" during the start. When he returned, he wasn't much better, if not worse. He gave up 28 earned runs in his next eight starts, only making it past the six inning mark in four of those starts. His ERA ballooned to 6.67 at it's highest, and was sitting at 5.86 as he entered June.
The trade rumors began to swirl, as Jimenez's velocity had dropped three MPH since 2010. Jimenez was also closing in on the 1,000 inning mark in Colorado, and the term "arm trouble" began to circulate throughout major league circles.
But Jimenez immediately began pitching better. On June 1, he pitched his first complete game, a seven K, four hit shut-out against the Dodgers, dropping his ERA nearly a point, to 4.98. It was his first win of the season...on June 1st.
He would end the month of June with two more wins, and in his six starts, four of them were of seven innings or more. His ERA dropped to 4.35, and the velocity began to pick up once again. He would continue his brilliant pitching into July, garnering three more wins, and at one point dropping his ERA to 4.00.
Enter the Indians and their massive offer to acquire Jimenez.
It was an interesting deal for the Indians since Jimenez was clearly the best starter on the market, and with the Indians seemingly in a hunt for a right-handed, power-hitting outfielder. While the Indians could have used a starter, it didn't seem to be at the top of the needs list. Still, when a pitcher like Jimenez goes on the market, you have to make that phone call.
Jimenez has a contract that clearly fits within the confines of the Indians' money saving strategy. In 2012, Jimenez makes a paltry $4.2 million, and it only goes up slightly in 2013, with a team option at $5.75 million. Jimenez does have another club option in 2014 at $8 million, but a clause in his contract allows him to opt out of the option if he was traded. He was, and he will.
With Jimenez signed through 2013 at a club friendly price, he is the perfect "ace" to trade for, since the Indians' front office sees the club's playoff window as 2012-2013. Of course, with the Indians only two-and-a-half games out of first now, the 2011 season enters the window as well.
I'm on board with the Indians' reasoning for making the deal, since Jimenez clearly has the stuff that aces are made of. I even say that with the firm belief that barring injury, Alex White and Drew Pomeranz will be top-of-the-rotation starters for Colorado starting this year (with White returning to the majors and making his Rockies' debut last night, and Rockies' brass believing that Pomeranz has a chance to enter the rotation next year).
Or how about another "ace" pitcher who was dealt during the 2009 season after another Cy Young award win. Cliff Lee was 2-6 heading into June, but was hurt thanks to no run production. Still, things picked up for the Tribe ace in June and July, as he went 5-3 with a sub 3.00 ERA. He was traded to the Phillies at the deadline, and simply went off, rolling out four wins in his first four starts, all quality starts. Overall, he would go 7-4, and he did taper off a bit in September, but his 3.39 ERA, two complete games, and six quality starts stand out.
Jimenez may not have the Sabathia pedigree, and may not have been "in the groove" as Lee was with regards to throwing strikes, but he certainly would fit in the equation with what those two players were expected to give their team. Jimenez is currently 1-0, with the Indians losing two of his three starts. He certainly has a chance to make a big impact in 2011. With nine-to-ten starts likely ahead of him, the time to start making that impact is now.
The Indians signed him to be a stopper, plain and simple. While Justin Masterson deserves to be in the Cy Young talk, and while Josh Tomlin has been an impressive surprise, and while Fausto has looked a bit like the 2007 version of himself lately, Jimenez has the stuff to absolutely blow players away.
That's why Ubaldo Jimenez is now a member of the Cleveland Indians.
That's what can make Ubaldo Jimenez the staff ace the Tribe needs, if he stops being just kinda pretty good since last August.
That's what will make his six, or possibly seven pitches so impressive (and not just a conversation piece about throwing too many pitches).
And that's what makes Ubaldo Jimenez worth the price of Drew Pomeranz and Alex White...because he can be an impact player now. While Pomeranz may be close, and White even closer, there are still many...many questions until they actually do it.
I don't care about Ubaldo Jimenez being under contract during the "Indians window" in 2012 and 2013 in 2011. What I do care about is Jimenez making an impact this year. In case you didn't notice, the Tribe is making a run (well...more like a double-limp at this point) to the playoffs. The Indians don't have time to allow him a few starts to figure out the American League. In this race, one game could make the difference.
So stop apologizing for Ubaldo Jimenez. The farm was given up for him to win games THIS YEAR, not just the next two.
Now, if we can just figure out a way for him to hit...
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.