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Tribe Happenings: Weighing the risks of resigning Jimenez

Tribe Happenings: Weighing the risks of resigning Jimenez
February 3, 2014
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Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook…

Is Jimenez worth the risk?

The Ubaldo Jimenez saga this offseason is a topic that has been written about and probably beaten to death by all of us here at IBI. But what continues to make it a fascinating storyline is the twists and turns his offseason narrative has brought over the last the last three months since the end of the baseball season.

IBI regulars Jim Pete and Steve Orbanek have both made recent compelling cases for the Indians to resign Jimenez, and several other members of the staff have provided their thoughts on him over the course of the offseason. I agree with a lot of what has already been said and written, so rather than having myself give another opinion as to why the Indians should consider resigning Jimenez after word of his market crashing this offseason and pitchers and catchers just a few days away from starting, I decided to bring something new to the table by looking at the danger of resigning him.

There is no doubt that part of the intrigue with Jimenez is how polarizing a figure he has become to the fan base. Some like him, some don’t like him, and the rest are probably on the fence with no idea which side to be on because of his inconsistency the last few years. I’m one of those people that is on the fence as I have gone back and forth on my stance why the Indians should or should not bring him back.

On the surface, if Jimenez indeed can be had for three years and $33-40 million, it is a deal the Indians should strongly consider making. He has been extremely reliable over his career from a durability standpoint and the hope is that the adjustments he and pitching coach Mickey Callaway worked on last year can carry over into more consistent success the next few years. The durability and upside with his performance and ability is something to get excited about and why I keep changing my mind on him.

But I always go back to the central part of my problem with Jimenez, which is a lack of faith in him. His inconsistency on the mound as an Indian the past few years factors into that thanks to a lack of focus that plagued him for most of the 2011 and 2012 season and a delivery that has so many moving parts that it would be hard to keep in line even if Callaway continues to prove he is a miracle worker.

But to me the biggest concern is his attitude.  Jimenez has proven to be a malcontent in the past and I fear that whoever signs him to what is expected to be a below market deal may be getting that same player again.

Going into the 2009 season Jimenez signed a four year $10 million contract extension that turned out to be a five year $15.75 million deal after the Indians picked up his $5.75 million club option before the 2013 season. It was a deal that he agreed to as a pre-arbitration player that carried him through his arbitration years and gave him some financial security; however, after good seasons in 2009 and 2010 he began to pout about his contract just two years after signing the deal.

After the 2010 season the Rockies gave lucrative contract extensions to key position players Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Meanwhile, Jimenez was coming off impressive back-to-back seasons where he had a very good 2009 season (15-12, 3.47 ERA, 218 IP, 8.2 K/9) and had a sensational 2010 campaign (19-8, 2.88 ERA, 221.2 IP, 8.7 K/9). He was well underpaid for the performance he was providing on the field, but he was in the middle of a contract he signed off on and the Rockies had no interest in tearing up such a team friendly deal.

Jimenez voiced his displeasure about the extensions to Tulowitzki and Gonzalez but it was a risk that he took when he signed his pre-arbitration extension with the Rockies. But that did not matter to him as he carried the contract issue with him into the 2011 season, to which Tulowitzki said a year later, “If someone doesn't want to be here we always say, 'Please, go up to the manager and tell him you want to leave or that you don't think this is the best place for you.' That was kind of the case with him.”

The contract issue with Jimenez not only affected him in the Rockies clubhouse, but it affected him on the field as well. Some felt he did not put in the hard work in his offseason leading up to his 2011 season because of his contract, and it was probably a big reason for his inconsistency and various injuries that season and ultimately the Rockies trading him to the Indians.  He was signed to a team friendly contract, so the Rockies really had no need to trade him, but the division between Jimenez and the team and some of his struggles in 2011 led them to explore a trade.

It was always a trade that at the time made me wonder why the Rockies even considered dealing Jimenez with three and a half years of control left on his deal (remember, his 2014 option was a club option before turning into a mutual option when he was traded). You just don’t see teams trade away young, cost controlled starting pitchers, especially ones who had performed so well and just a season before started the All Star game for the National League and threw a no-hitter.

So obviously there was enough of a problem between Jimenez and the team and in the clubhouse where they felt it best to wipe their hands clean and move on. We know the story from there as Jimenez struggled in his two month showing with the Indians to end 2011 and had a disastrous 2012 campaign. He regrouped last season and had a very good season, one that was on par with his performance in 2009 and 2010.

Jimenez is a very good talent that a lot of people have repeatedly said the draft compensation attached to him has weighed his market down this offseason – which is true – but the other factor which has crippled his market is the concern teams have in regard to his aforementioned lack of focus and attitude. Many wonder if his rebound last season came about not because of the wizardry of Callaway, but because Jimenez actually put in the work, was focused because he was in a free agent year, and finally shook the hangover from all of his pouting about his contract in 2011.

So the question is if Jimenez signs a three year $39 million deal, would he come into spring training focused after a tough offseason? Would he pout about it like he did back in 2011 knowing he should be paid more? And does a potential lack of focus and some grumbling about his contract effect his performance on and off the field like it did in 2011 and 2012?

Those are legitimate questions and concerns, and probably the biggest reason I fear the Indians resigning Jimenez. Sure, he is a few years older now and more mature, and whether he gets $35 million or $70 million, he is set for life. But it is still a gamble for a team to take, and a big reason why teams have been so hesitant to sign him. His signing would be like a spin of the roulette wheel at as you just don't know what you are going to get.

We can list all the statistics we want showing why Jimenez has turned things around or has value, but the crux of the issue here is more an emotional one, something that really can’t be measured by stats. It comes down to whether someone believes he won’t fall back into the same mental mindset he had from 2011 to 2012 – which would ultimately affect all of those positive trending statistics from last year. It is the one variable with a baseball player that is tough to measure. The focus and heart to put everything into what they are doing.

Last week I wrote a piece for Fox Sports Ohio how draft compensation has changed the free agent game. I definitely believe that has hurt Jimenez this offseason as without draft compensation teams would be more willing to take a chance on his durability and ability with the hopes he turns out. But of course, you get everything else that comes with Jimenez with the emotional and mental games which have held him back for most of his career. You wonder if they will resurface, and thus is why teams are hesitant about him.

It is why I keep going back and forth on whether Jimenez is truly a bargain even at three years and $12 to $13 million a year. If he pitches well, obviously he is, but if those emotional issues crop up then the contract will weigh on the Indians much like the Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner deals in the past.

It is also worth noting that the Indians were pretty decisive in their decision with Jimenez this offseason where once he declined the qualifying offer they pretty much moved on and we have really not heard the Indians connected to him in any way since – even with his market falling. Now, it is possible that the Indians have circled back to him recently, but there is not a lot out there that supports that they have reached out to Jimenez. Actions speak louder than words, and inaction on Jimenez could mean the Indians have decided much like the Rockies that they have decided to wipe their hands clean of him and move on.

So is Jimenez a pitcher who truly turned things around last season or will he once again be the emotional enigma he was for most of 2011 and 2012?  I’m intrigued at his possible return, but I am inclined to move on and let someone else take that risk.

So I guess I am still on the fence.

Does a one year deal for Jimenez make sense?

There has been some talk that the Indians should consider bringing Jimenez back on a one year deal. The feeling is that they offered him the $14.1 million qualifying offer back in October, so they should just sign him to that deal now if he is receptive to it.

It is not that easy.

First of all, the Indians never expected Jimenez to accept the qualifying offer. Had he accepted it they would have worked him into the budget, but they knew he would decline in order to seek out a much more lucrative multi-year deal. So he was probably never even budgeted into the 2014 plans. Besides, had they budgeted that $14.1 million for Jimenez in their $85 million or so budget for 2014 and he declined and moved on, they technically just used it to sign David Murphy and John Axford and also trade for Josh Outman.

The money is gone. With a payroll slotted at about $85 million, to bring on Jimenez now to a one year deal for $12-14 million would push payroll to just below $100 million, something which does not appear to be a possibility for a team that consistently ranks in the bottom three in attendance in baseball. Yes, TV revenues are up, but gate receipts are still the driving force with payroll for a team like the Indians.

Secondly, it would not make a lot of sense for Jimenez to accept a one year deal from the Indians because if he had a good season in 2014 he is probably right back in the same spot next offseason. The Indians would be able to extend a qualifying offer to him after the 2014 season and then he would be forced to decide to accept it or go into free agency again as a draft compensation player – a label which was proven to be crippling for non-elite major league players (Ubaldo is good, but not elite).

Under the new CBA the Indians have the right to extend a qualifying offer to any free agent they had on the roster the entire season and it is something that cannot be negotiated in a contract.  Per Article XX – Section B – Part (5)(c) of the CBA:

“A Club and Player (or their designated representatives) shall not enter into any agreement, understanding or contract, or make any representation, promise, or commitment, whether implied or explicit, either orally or in writing, that the Club will not make a Qualifying Offer to a Player, or that a Player will not accept a Qualifying Offer if one is tendered to him. Any Club or Club employee that violates this provision will be subject to discipline by the Commissioner, including the potential forfeiture of draft selections.”

So the Indians and Jimenez can’t sign a one year deal with anything written into the contract where the Indians are prohibited from offering the qualifying offer to him next offseason.

You can bet Jimenez doesn’t want to go through all of this again next offseason, especially with some big names up for free agency next offseason such as Max Scherzer, John Lester, James ShieldsJustin Masterson and others. So he is probably going to settle for some kind of multi-year deal with someone. He doesn’t want a one year deal and no one wants the risk of four years or more, so it is why he is probably looking at a three year deal from someone.

Besides, what if Jimenez were to settle for a one year deal with the Indians? What incentive is there for him to pitch well when he knows that if he does the Indians would offer him a qualifying offer again next year and he is in the same spot?  Wouldn’t it be better for him in that case to just have a so-so season, not get the qualifying offer, and then get a free agent deal without draft pick compensation attached to him? Is it possible that without draft compensation he might have the freedom to get as good or better a deal as the one if he pitched well and got the qualifying offer?

That is crazy to consider, but it is the world we live in now with qualifying offers.

In any case, while it is not completely out of the realm of possibility, I would not expect a one year deal being a good fit for the Indians or Jimenez.

Qualifying offers bring opportunity

As I noted above, I wrote a piece for Fox Sports Ohio last week where I talked about how the revised draft compensation system has changed the way teams value free agents that have draft compensation tied to them.

In a nutshell, it is not the compensation pick teams receive that adds value, it is the additional bonus pool money they receive which brings the real value. Conversely, it is not the loss of a draft pick which concerns a team – they always lost first round picks under the old system for signing top level free agents – it is the loss of bonus pool money which significantly degrades the value of the player.

If a team is willing to forego their first round pick to sign a “qualified” player, it is an enormous hit to their draft bonus pool and effectively ruins their chances to be aggressive and creative in the upcoming draft. This is why teams have been so reluctant to sign qualified players as the compensation process in free agency is a huge change because a team that loses their first round pick could end up losing close to 50% of their bonus pool.

This is why the Indians have been in the catbird seat with potentially bringing Jimenez back next season, and why they may be in the same position with Justin Masterson next offseason. They are finding out that for non-elite starting pitchers (Jimenez and Masterson are good, but not elite), that you give them the qualifying offer, watch their market and demands shrink, and then attempt to sign them to a deal late in the offseason. It does not guarantee the player returns, but greatly enhances the possibility and is a risk worth taking. So long as a team truly wishes to make a strong effort to resign a player and wants to keep him, it makes sense to keep that player who is nearing free agency rather than trade them. If things don’t pan out, then team still gets that compensation pick as a parting gift for their efforts.

To me, the opportunity for a significantly increased chance to keep a player of value and at worst get a compensation pick trumps any value a team could get in a trade for a player a year away from free agency.

Boy, has the game changed

So I watched Field of Dreams for the first time in a long time the other night with my nine-year old son. It may have been the first time I watched that movie in about 10-12 years, and the fact I got to enjoy it with my son who was watching it for the first time it may have been even better than the first time I saw it. Yes, I found myself weeping uncontrollably at the end even though I had seen the show-stopping reunion scene between father and son a couple dozen of times already.

Over the years my perspective on life has changed. This is the obvious transition we all make from the reckless days of youth into our older years of adulthood. I am on my way to the big 4-0 this year, have a family of my own, and my parents are growing older. Life has a different meaning to me now.

Along with that, while watching the movie I found myself thinking about how much the game of baseball has changed and how the pieces that make it all up have a different meaning the older I get.  Those players from that era in the movie are folk heroes as most of the memories come from people listening to the radio and their imaginations painting their own picture of the events.  In a lot of ways, back then it was kind of like reading a book and envisioning the events of the story in your mind.

Back then they did not have regional sports networks which aired every baseball game. They did not have 24-hour sports networks like ESPN and MLB Network to recap all the events and highlights on the TV from the previous night’s baseball action for every team. They did not have the internet which allowed people from all across the world to watch any game via MLBTV or use countless Gameday interfaces to follow the action. They did not have cell phone apps where you could listen to the game on your phone while you mowed the lawn.

In this day and age we have become so inundated with technology which in some ways has taken some of the folk lore out of the game. There no longer is any mystery as to what a player is like as you simply just turn on the TV and you see that player any time he plays, whereas several decades ago you were lucky to get 5-10 glimpses of that player a year if you went to games and saw them play live.

Imagine the vision in your mind if you had only heard and not seen great Tribe moments of the last 30 or so years like the Tony Fernandez home run in Game 6 of the 1997 ALCS, the Len Barker perfect game in 1981, the Tony Pena walkoff homer in extra innings in Game 1 of the 1995 ALDS, the amazing comeback against the Mariners in August of 2001, and many others. That’s what it would have felt like if you were around back in 1954 when Willie Mays made “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series or listening to the events that unfolded during the Indians’ last World Series winning run in 1948.

This is why so many players from that era are so endeared and loved. They make such good stories because everyone has a different “view” of them in their mind based on what they read in the paper and heard on the radio.  And why in a lot of ways the game was so pure back then – at least to me. The wall to wall coverage on cable TV and in cyberspace is great for the game as it puts so much at the fingertips of its fans, but you lose a lot of the aura that was so appealing to the game so long ago.

I still love baseball and think it is the greatest game ever invented, but the golden days are definitely gone. That is why it works to make a movie about those players coming out of a corn field. It’s legendary and mysterious at the same time because we knew of those players but did not really know them. For many there are few if any video highlights of them when they played. There is no mystery with the players of today as they have been ingrained into our minds on a daily basis through all of the media at our disposal.

It makes me wonder if 30 years from now when my son sits down with his nine-year old son to watch a baseball movie centered around players from the 1970s or 1980s if it will have as much appeal. There were a lot of heroes for sure from that time period, but it just isn’t the same because of the advent of TV which has taken away the folk lore of baseball greats of the past in a world that only knew newspapers and the radio.

Parting shots

Low-A Lake County and Double-A Akron will take part in a special exhibition game at Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio on April 1st at 5pm. It will be a seven inning contest and played as a game to get the pitchers for both teams some needed work between their departure from spring training and the start of their season a few days later. It is expected that the two teams will play each other in a similar preseason exhibition game next year at Akron. … On Thursday the Indians extended the Player Development Contract with short season Single-A Mahoning Valley for two additional seasons through 2016. Mahoning Valley has been the Indians’ New York-Penn League affiliate since being founded in 1999.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

February 6, 2014 - 7:20 AM EST
Losing Ubaldo I think will not hurt the Tribe but I think we should sign Masterson to a four year contract. He has developed some great pitches and he is a team player. The one thing that everyone is forgetting is our young players. No one heard of Danny but he was given a chance with one of the starter down. Chris failed and several young player like Lee stepped in and it became Chris who. I think with spring training coming that the young players are going to step it up. We must give them a chance to play and the results I have been hearing, we might be surprised of what we have. Just remember we have Mickey, who is a great coach, and that has to be a double plus for our future staff. I think with the pieces that we have signed maybe we will be lucky to keep maybe a couple. Spring training is fun now that Terry is running the show. Summary, wait and see who comes to us and don't get in a hurry.
Canadian Joe
February 5, 2014 - 9:22 AM EST
Great discussion on this topic, and a good choice Tony ! However when digesting all this information, I still come to the same conclusion. Too many "if's" with Ubaldo. And that translates to a one year deal only. Someone made the recommendation of an incentive laden contract, which would be the smart way to go, but I can't see him accepting. Based on what we know of the guy, he probably feels what he did last year equates to a long term guaranteed contract. Time will tell how this plays out, but I still see some GM out there going 3/$40 mil. or 4/$55 mil. The Toronto GM fits the bill.
February 5, 2014 - 9:02 AM EST
I believe the Indians are tapped to the max regarding the budget. I also believe the low attendance in 2013 has played a factor in FA off season.

However there is not much buzz out there about Jimenez. I also believe the longer Jimenez remains a FA, it could effect his effectiveness for this season.
February 5, 2014 - 9:00 AM EST
Rich, that's what we need to find out. I will say with Bourn that there were numerous reports that they were "interested" in him throughout the offseason, but nothing of any substance was known publicly. After they signed him, I may be wrong, but I recall them mentioning they reached out to him and his agent at the Winter Meetings. Right now, there just has been no connection at all to Ubaldo except for national people speculating that they could circle back to him if the price is right. Not one report that they have contacted his agent to gauge his asking price. I still think he ends up with the Jays and would be surprised if the Indians signed him. Antonetti and company run a tight ship so few rumors get leaked, but to not have anything coming out from the agent's camp is interesting. We shall see!
February 5, 2014 - 8:47 AM EST
The big question, Tony, is whether the Indians appear to have little interest in him because...

1) They don't think he can replicate his 2013 season

2) They're maxed out and given last year's low attendance despite a 92-win season will not go over budget, or

3) They're just waiting for the price to drop to within their range before initiating discussions. I don't believe they were in contact with Bourn until late in the process last year, either.
February 5, 2014 - 8:26 AM EST
All good points fellas. I just want to make sure Antonetti and the fans are not making an emotional decision when trying to bring Jimenez back. That everything is considered. As we know, emotional decisions can often be the worst ones. The feeling of "need" for Jimenez, Masterson or anyone else has to be right. In the end, I ultimately would be fine with Jimenez on a three-year deal and would take the risk. But as I said in the piece I am on the fence with it, so if he doesn't sign then I am fine with it. I still don't get the feeling the Indians have much interest to bring him back anyway. Almost no connection between him and the team since early November....
Joe Chengery
February 5, 2014 - 3:29 AM EST
For the record Masterson had some problems against those same teams early last year:

Apr 28: @KC 6.1 IP/9 H/7 R/7 ER/4 BB/9 K
May 3: MIN 6.2 IP/8 H/5 R/5 ER/2 BB/5 K
Jun 3: @NYY 6.1 IP/9 H/7 R/7 ER/3 BB/5 K
Jun 25 @BAL 6.1 IP/6 H/6 R/6 ER/1 BB/7 K

That's why I don't buy the argument that Masterson had a strong first half; I didn't include the stats from when he was knocked around twice by BOS and DET (5.0 IP/4 ER, 6.0 IP/5 ER/; 7.0 IP/4 ER, 4.2 IP/6 ER), since they do have better offenses.

Also, that start against BAL above, he faltered down the stretch, giving up a 6-run inning in the 6th, I think, and the Indians lost. He lost a late lead against TOR in Cleveland on Jul 10, though he finished with a solid 6.2 IP/2 ER in that start, a game the Indians also went on to lose.

Case in point, I don't think Masterson will be worth a contract in the 4 yr. $50M that Garza got or potentially $60-65M that he might get next offseason, especially when Jimenez has the longer, better track record and will likely cost less than that if the reports are accurate. Is there a risk he could pout and be moody? Sure, but I don't think it's as big as you think, especially since it happened some time ago in a different organization, and the one who really spoke out against him got the eighth-largest contract at that time and was recognized as the leader of that ballclub. Plus, I sort of gotten the impression over the years that Tulowitzki is one who is more outspoken, and I'm not sure if he rubs some people the wrong way with his play, or maybe it's the hype, since he has had a fair amount of injuries. I may be wrong on that assessment, but just from I've heard and read over the years, I get the impression he is a bit outspoken, probably in part due to his being recognized as the leader of that ballclub.

That's not to excuse Jimenez's actions; just to say that that probably played a factor in his reactions, and why that may not happen here.

As I said before, I believe you have to keep one of the two to keep the strong pitching you have demonstrated in 2013, plus to protect against regression, injuries, and fallouts and/or delays from prospects. When everything is taken into account, I think Jimenez is the better bet at the lower cost, and, thus, is the better buy. Plus, you can gain the compensation or trade Masterson if a worthwhile deal comes along- it gives the Indians more options, and the Indians like flexibility and maximizing value. If you let Jimenez go, and Masterson also goes, it's going to be very difficult to replace that level of production, even with an improving farm system, as the starting pitching is still the weak point, and FA is not a likely avenue to do it.

And, if the Indians can't replace that level of starting pitching, then the offense and bullpen must get much stronger to cover for it, which can work in the regular season, but very rarely works in the postseason. That's all the more reason why I think Jimenez is the one the Indians should sign, not Masterson. If you can sign both, great, but if it's only one, when weighing everything mentioned above and elsewhere, I still would go with Jimenez over Masterson.
Joe Chengery
February 5, 2014 - 3:29 AM EST

The five starts before the ones you mentioned:

Aug 10: LAA 6.1 IP/5 H/3 R/2 ER/3 BB/6 K
Aug 17: @OAK 5.2 IP/1 H/1 R/1 ER/5 BB/8 K
Aug 23: MIN 6.0 IP/5 H/2 R/2 ER/3 BB/10 K
Aug 29: @ATL 7.0 IP/7 H/3 R/3 ER/0 BB/10 K
Sep 3: BAL 6.0 IP/4 H/0 R/0 ER/2 BB/4 K

His worst start of the second half probably came right before this stretch against FLA where he went just 4.0 IP, gave up 9 H, 5 R, but only 2 ERs due to some very shoddy defense, 2 BB, 4 K. I believe he was also matched up against Jose Fernandez, who likely would have beaten anyone last year, especially in that ballpark, even Max Scherzer.

I think Jimenez's best start was against ATL: That was in ATL, the Braves had the longest winning streak last year (12, I think), was off to one of the hottest starts in baseball last year, essentially ending any major drama in the NL East early, and has been a place the Indians have not played well in, yet Jimenez gave them a good chance to do so, even though they lost that game, as well as the LAA and MIN games above, something to keep in mind as well about the Indians' offense not giving him much support down the stretch, yet didn't falter against the competition, weak or otherwise- you still had to go and shut them down.
Joe Chengery
February 5, 2014 - 1:25 AM EST

Nice summary. :-)

It will certainly be interesting to see what CA does, and those dominoes, both his and the rest of MLB's, should start falling sooner rather than later, since Spring Training is right around the corner (this week for two teams, actually). Let's hope it works out well for the Indians, especially since their window of contention is open right now. Have to strike while the iron is hot! :-)
February 5, 2014 - 12:36 AM EST
Let's come at this from another angle:

Will Chris Antonetti sit back and let both Ubaldo and Justin walk as free agents?

Why would he do that?

Well, he can get two draft picks and the $'s that go with them in return. He opens up space for up and coming pitchers, any two of Carrasco, Bauer, Tomlin and/or Anderson, to step in and succeed as starters. He saves literally millions of dollars, which could then be invested in other places. He doesn't have to engage in the disgusting and immoral act of giving money to the malcontent bum that is called Ubaldo. And, he plays it safe by not creating huge expectations for success that come with the signing of a major free-agent contract.

Why would he not do that?

Because he knows that the two first round draft picks and their $'s are not going to help him any time soon, if at all. Certainly not any time in the next two years, and chances are, not even in the next four. Because he sees that with Francona (and his great staff) here, and with a core of solid young improving players and a small group of veteran players ready to rebound from mediocre seasons, he has a chance to beat Detroit and KC, two teams that didn't improve over the off-season. Because he sees his job as actually making things happen to improve the team, and that means not being afraid to take risks and boldly seizing opportunities when they present themselves. Because he wants to get to the world series this year, not 10 years from now, but this year. Sure, the playoffs were fun, but he and Francona are playing to get to the world series. Now.

I think CA is in this because he's a competitor, and I think he's in it to win. I also believe that he's made a commitment to Francona to try to win, and now. Because he's a competitor is why he had the balls to pull the trigger on the Ubaldo trade, why he recruited and signed Francona, why he signed Swish and Bourn, and fleeced the Blue Jays. And that's also why I think he's not just sitting back thinking "oh, poor little me. They don't want to sign with me...woes me... sniffle... sniffle..."

Who knows if he signs Ubaldo, or signs or trades Masterson, but one thing I'm pretty sure about is that it would be very out of character for CA to just sit back and do nothing.
February 4, 2014 - 11:52 PM EST
Forgot to make one other note. And I am more just playing devil's advocate here....but Jimenez had that strong finish against some pretty weak competition. His last 5 starts were against the Royals, White Sox (twice), Astros and Twins. Here were their final rankings out of 15 AL teams:

Royals: 11th in runs, 11th in OPS
White Sox: 15th in runs, 14th in OPS
Astros: 14th in runs, 15th in OPS
Twins: 13th runs, 12th in OPS

He did what he had to do against weaker competition, but again, it is just another red flag to me. I really need to see what he does this year in a non-contract year and over a consistent season before I am a true believer in him.
Joe Chengery
February 4, 2014 - 10:59 PM EST
Losing Jimenez will be a big hole to fill, and one that really can't be filled adequately via FA. Burnett might be the closest one to fill it because of his stuff, but cost, age, switch to AL, and lack of success with Yankees make him a big risk himself, plus it won't solve the long-term of who fills the rotation. Arroyo isn't worth the cost he'd be asking for, especially when you have a similar, cheaper pitcher in Tomlin. Samardzjia would cost too much in talent and isn't proven in the AL (heck, he still has to show that last year's success can become a trend).

Then, if you lose Masterson on top of it next year (a strong possibility in my opinion), then the Farm System and FA have to fill two holes, and I don't think it can adequately, not unless the farm system can produce multiple studs/aces; the only times in recent memory that occurred were Sabathia/Carmona circa 2007 and Colon/Wright circa 1997/1998, and both of those didn't last longer than a year in terms of dominance because they weren't proven enough with a long track record, and that's my point about the prospects we have versus Ubaldo. Heck, Masterson doesn't have Ubaldo's track record, and I agree with Hermie13 that Masterson's first half of 2013 didn't match Ubaldo's second half of 2013 (said the same thing myself).

If the Indians lose both, the huge hole in that rotation will be extremely difficult and really cause the Indians to fall back in the AL Central. The only way is if they get lucky enough that all three of their remaining starters prove they are as good as last year over the long term, AND at least two prospects prove they are at or near that same level. That's a tall order for any team with a young rotation, and especially one that has not had much success in that department for at least the last 30 (probably 50, since the late 1950s, early 1960s) years like the Indians.

If the Indians don't resign Jimenez, I fear the dominoes will start falling- Masterson is likely gone, and the prospects and young starters won't be able to adequately fill the gap. Keep in mind that pitching wins championships and allow you to go deep into October, not really offense. If Jimenez is still the pitcher he's shown for the last year and can be had for that relatively bargain price, and the Indians let him go, it could really come back to bite the Indians long-term, since I don't think Masterson is at the same level, I don't think Masterson is staying here beyond 2014, and he shouldn't be paid much more than what Ubaldo will get because he isn't even as dominant as Ubaldo when both pitchers are on. Jimenez is closer to Salazar than Masterson is in my opinion, and getting a pitcher via FA like that with an overall track record of success minus 1-2 year blip happens once in a blue moon for the Indians. They have to be certain that Jimenez is really a problem or issue to really let that chance slip through their fingers, rather than think that Masterson is the better option long-term at a higher dollar amount and/or longer contract when his track record is much spottier than Jimenez's.

Question: If Jimenez doesn't resign, I presume you go with Carrasco/Bauer/Tomlin/Marcum, etc, as we're planning to right now?

Question 2: What happens if we lose Jimenez now and Masterson after 2014? Then, what is the Indians' best course of action? Granted, it's hard to project a year into the future, but the Indians definitely have to consider that possibility if they let Jimenez go, since I think he'd be easier to sign than Masterson will be, especially with the high dollar amount and possible arbitration case coming up.
Joe Chengery
February 4, 2014 - 10:55 PM EST
Good points, all.


The question is, which Ubaldo is going to show up after he signs his contract- the one who regresses, or the one who shows up most of last year? Yes, he couldn't go six innings early on, as it seemed he was still getting his mechanics in order, but once his mechanics clicked in, he took off. Could he lose his mechanics again? It's possible, but it would seem less likely here in Cleveland, OR, it would be easier for him to get it back. If it is a focus issue, he and his agent need to realize that if moodiness led to his poor 2012, it's just going to hurt him long-term if that happens again because more teams will be reluctant to sign him as he gets older. And, as I said before, he could get 2, possibly 3 more 3-year contracts (or at least two 3-year and one 2-year contracts before his career is done - he's had a better track record of health than Colon has, and Colon just got a 2-year deal at age 40).

As Hermie13 put it, I'm not confident about the Indians matching up with the Tigers and Royals in 2014 if Jimenez is not in that rotation; he was one of THE key reasons (Salazar was the other) why the Indians made the September run, why they made the postseason, and why they finished just one game behind the Tigers. When teams lose their "ace" and have two other key starters not at full strength (Kluber, McAllister), most teams will fold and call it a year. Jimenez and Salazar were the two key reasons that the Indians had the ability to go on that winning streak, as the Indians still weren't scoring tons of runs in many of those games (never mind the fact those were weak teams with largely weak pitching staffs).
February 4, 2014 - 9:21 PM EST
Something to remember is while Ubaldo pitched well from May on last year and the team had a good record when he started, a lot of that was due to the bullpen because he pitched six innings or more just 16 of his 32 starts. That's not very good when your #2 or #3 guy can't consistently pitch six innings and means the bullpen is throwing 3+ innings in half his starts. I mean, before his Sept run when he went six or more every start, he had just 10 of his 26 starts go at least a full six innings!
February 4, 2014 - 6:36 PM EST
Tony, I do like QOs. And helps teams like us. In that sense its good. Unfortunately we are still priced out of the elites. Hopefully that changes someday.
February 4, 2014 - 5:53 PM EST
Ubaldo started 32 games last year. The Indians' record in those games was 21-11.

In 8 of the 11 starts the Indians lost, Ubaldo gave up 3 earned runs or less. So he either won or gave them a good chance of winning in 29 out of 32 starts.

Somebody said without him last year they would have been a 3rd place team. I think that's optimistic.

Like Hermie said - a 2.62 ERA in his last 28 starts. We're not talking about a half season here. Ubaldo has always been a dominant pitcher when his mechanics are right. Who else can pitch at that level? Tomlin? Carrasco? Bauer? Heck, even Masterson has never been as dominant as Ubaldo was last year.

As for his emotional stability, Tony said he's never been a problem in the clubhouse in the 2.5 years he's been here. He says he loves playing in Cleveland and if the Indians offer him more than any other team, what's he going to be upset about? If he wins 25 games next year and decides he's underpaid at $13 million, well, that's a problem I'd love to have.

As for Tony's statement that the coaches "couldn't get through to him" in 2012, I don't understand what it meant, exactly. They switched pitching coaches in 2013 and found a guy who "got through" to him. Ubaldo was not the problem - it was an incompetent pitching coach. I'd give Callaway a long term deal, too.

No team goes to the WS anymore without three dominant starters. Ubaldo is a dominant starter at the present time, and if the rules regarding draft picks and the draft pool favor the Indians, they need to take advantage of that because it's their only opportunity to sign a guy who was one of the top 5-10 starters in baseball last year at a reasonable price.
February 4, 2014 - 5:03 PM EST
This probably fits better in the Masterson vs Ubaldo thread but anyways...

Ubaldo had a terrible April in 2013...or better, terrible first 4 appearances. After that, his last 28 posted a 2.61 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 9.72 K/9 rate.

Masterson had 4 appearances in September, his injury start and 3 relief his 28 starts in the previous five months he posted a 3.49 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and a 8.98 K/9 rate.

If the Indians (or anyone) sign Ubaldo to a 3yr/$40M deal (or less) much does Masterson really think he can get on the open market in a year? Sure Masterson can argue he's more consistent than Ubaldo...though not the most consistent guy himself. But can't really point to a year where he was ever as good as Ubaldo's 2009-2010...and really nothing comes close.

Masterson and his agent can't be so dense to miss what we can see on Ubaldo's 2013...that his final 5 months were arguably better than Masterson's first 5 months, yet the guy is struggling to find offers thanks to the QO attached. Ubaldo isn't viewed as elite, and rightfully so, his 2012 was so bad teams are smart not to just throw money at him....but can Masterson really present a better case to teams to give up a draft pick? I honestly can't see how Masterson or his agent can really believe they a good chance at getting 4 or more years on the open market with a QO attached....not unless Masterson turns in the best season of his career (and even then it seems like a stretch).

If you're Cleveland and you are the team that takes the "risk" and signs'll be giving Masterson a teammate for the next year that can remind him of how tough the open market can be...possibly giving him even more incentive to sign an extension before the season starts...
February 4, 2014 - 4:48 PM EST
One thing to remember too with wasn't just the contract issue that was hurting Ubaldo in 2011 before the was dealt. He ended up on the DL after his first start due to a finger injury that bothered him in Spring Training according to both he and the team. He just never seemed to recover from that. Sure Ubaldo didn't help himself buy worrying about his contract, but we upclose and personal what a spring training/April injury can do to a pitcher....Cliff Lee was a solid starter til a seemingly harmless injury early in 2007 knocked him out for a bit...and he just never recovered, eventually being demoted to AAA and missing out on the playoffs. Not saying Ubaldo is Cliff Lee, as they are totally different pitchers, but I still think people focus too much on 2012 and not enough on how he has pitched in other seasons.
February 4, 2014 - 4:31 PM EST
@Canadian Joe

I'm not saying you're wrong for not wanting to give Ubaldo the money/years he wants. I just don't think it's right to look at his 1st half and 2nd half splits and not recognizing that it was really only the month of April that killed his ERA.

Sure, pre-AllStar break his ERA was 4.56 and post it was 1.82.

But again, his April ERA was 7.13...his post-April ERA was 2.72.

Or better yet, his ERA thru April 21st was 10.06...a total of 4 starts. His ERA from then on (28 starts) was 2.61. He had 3 terrible starts in April back-to-back-to-back...after that though he was a different pitcher. Averaged nearly 6 innings a start (5.92) after that, 15 of the 28 he went at least 6 innings, and only twice did he give up more than 3 earned runs. His WHIP of 1.30 from then on isn't anything special but the K-rate jumped and his groundball rate jumped up after a terrible 2012.

Is Ubaldo the Ace he was in 2010? Probably he as bad as he was in 2012? Probably not. Is he a solid #3, maybe better? I think so...Tribe could use that right now IMO. Still think 3years and $40M (or less) is a risk worth taking with Ubaldo if you're Cleveland. Sure could blow up like Westbrook...but also could be the pitcher you need to beat the Tigers and Royals. Very good case can be made the Indians are no more than a 3rd place team in the AL Central without Ubaldo.
February 4, 2014 - 4:22 PM EST
Good discussion.

A couple of responses to some other points:

- I agree YourTribe that the QO's are hurting the above average guys. Teams no doubt have no problem giving up picks and bonus pool money to sign the Cano's and other elite level free agents. It really comes down to those average to above average guys who are hurt by it. I feel bad for the players....but I think it is great for teams to start keeping some of these non "stars" rather than having to trade them or watch them leave as free agents. Just helps the Indians chances of keeping guys.

- Rich, the Rockies were not happy with the Jimenez situation. It was a rough dynamic between him and the team, and also him and the rest of the clubhouse. There are articles from July 2011 to April 2012 that explained how rough things were. When Ubaldo was traded, the players were almost relieved he was gone and Tulo had some strong remarks. This obviously bothered Jimenez who threw at him in spring training a few months later. From what I understand, Jimenez was not a problem in the clubhouse with the Indians, but he was a problem to the coaches in 2012. Guys had a hard time getting through to him. Does that make him a malcontent? Probably not. But his focus issues in Cleveland combined with his past issues with the Rockies show a guy who is moody. That kind of guy from a makeup perspective scares me as you wonder how he will perform once he gets his money. And yeah, he had GREAT work ethic last year.....but there are many in the industry who believe he suddenly became so focused and worked so hard because it was a contract year.

- MBSC, I like the idea of an incentive laden contract. If they sign him for three years, I would give him a low base with tons of incentives to make more money a year and vest option years on the backend to keep him motivated. He's a guy that I think needs incentive to get the best out of him.

- Rocky, ha! Yeah, maybe saying listening to a game on the phone while mowing the lawn was a poor example. A better example would be going to Hawaii in March and being able to listen to Tom Hamilton on the radio calling a game while you are on the beach.:)

- MT88, no problem. I posted that just for you.:) As for Kazmir, from what I understand they were sort of torn on offering him the QO but in the end believed he would accept it and didn't want to pay him $14M for one season. Had they offered him the QO there is no doubt he'd still be unemployed.
Canadian Joe
February 4, 2014 - 3:49 PM EST
Prior to All Star break he was 4.5 + ERA averaging less than 5 innings a start. Post all star he was much better, averaging better than 6 innings. Overall in 32 starts, averaged less than 6 innings per start. Not picking an argument here Hermie, just saying I would not give him the $$$ and yrs. he wants. 1 year only. IMHO.
February 4, 2014 - 2:24 PM EST
"Imagine the vision in your mind if you had only heard and not seen great Tribe moments of the last 30 or so years like the Tony Fernandez home run in Game 6 of the 1997 ALCS"

While I did get to see this....I also was fortunate to have the radio going at the same time....Herb Score's call there is something I will never of the best/worst/funniest/greatest calls I can remember.
February 4, 2014 - 2:18 PM EST
@MT88 in WI

Had Kazmir declined a QO I absolutely think he's still on the market...that or he already would have agreed to a 1-year deal with Cleveland for about $11-12M. No way would anyone have already given up a pick for him. And I still don't think he'd have declined, though I didn't think Morales would actually decline (thought he was possibly saying he would to just get the $14.1M guaranteed money).
February 4, 2014 - 2:16 PM EST
Seems like a lot of people are saying Ubaldo only had a half good season in 2013....but I just don't think it's completely accurate to say Ubaldo had a bad 1st half in 2013.

Sure you could look at the numbers and just say he was bad (4.56 ERA, .248 BAA aren't that bad though)....but his ERA from June 1st on (well before the All-Star break) was 2.40 in over 130 innings. Going back even further, his ERA from May 1st on was 2.72. He was bad for one month...April. He was good for the other five.

So if the old saying "what have you done for me lately" holds true...wouldn't that actually mean the Tribe should pay Ubaldo since he was very good recently?

Again, definitely see the risk there with Ubaldo...but he was very solid from May 1st on and has shown that he can be a dominate Ace at times. Even in a bad year still got you over 175 innings...may not sound like much, but consider that only Masterson has done that of the five projected guys in the rotation.
MT88 in WI
February 4, 2014 - 1:47 PM EST
As the person asking about QO structure for contracts (& suggesting ideas clearly not allowed in the rules), I appreciate your research and your sharing the info you found. I suggest that info get stored for reference somewhere.

Now, considering the way the market has played out, I have to wonder, IF Kazmir had been given the QO, are we sure he would have accepted it & if declined, would Kazmir still be seeking a deal??

February 4, 2014 - 1:42 PM EST
And Joe - as to why they did take Ubaldo to begin with.

Look, they trusted O'Dowd (mistake) in part because he came through Cleveland, and they were desperate to try and lure back the fan base. They rolled the dice, and it was so so on the one hand on the other - at least it wasn't craps.

That said, I think that they are doing as good a job at development as they have during my lifetime. I mean after all, even during the halcyon days of Manny, Thome, and Albert - we never did much besides Nagy and ???? when it came to pitching.

Look, Kluber alone would have been room for excitement. Yes McCallister took a step back, but it wasn't a disaster for him. Could be the Yankees were more right than wrong and he is a serviceable 4-5 - but going into last year he was the one real bright spot.

That and a reliable pen. Heck it wasn't that long ago during the Wedge years that we had a one year terrible next year pretty good Pen. That's changed. (And I believe it will continue with this years pick ups)

But after Salazar emerges and both Kazmir and Ubaldo put in good to excellent years, all of a sudden the focus is all about losing Kaz and probably Ubaldo.

That is part of what is wrong with this conversation. Besides not giving this organization credit for turning around their pitching, posters here are discounting a guy like Tomlin as well.

Years ago we all knew we had a stud with CC. But heck, most Tribe fans wrote Cliff Lee off completely before he emerged as a - dare I say it - a potential Hall of Fame pitcher.

I was just a wee kid back in the day when we were seeing Sudden Sam, Hagan, and Louis Tiant try and revive a dead franchise.

Well I think with Tito and Callaway we are so blessed again. Yet there is little faith here - among the most passionate and observant fans - where it should be.

That is a disappointment. And it also pisses me off. They deserve and have earned better.

Ubaldo is a punk who was lucky to land here to even have a career. Our focus is better placed elsewhere.
February 4, 2014 - 1:25 PM EST

" Since coming to the Indians there has been not a whiff of information that Ubaldo has been anything other than a hard-working, well-liked, and well-respected teammate. He has consistently said that he loves Cleveland. He turned around his career and got back to being a successful pitcher here."

Not true. You HAVE BEEN paying attention since we were a winning ball club under Tito and Callaway.

But that isn't the best test for a diva immature ballplayer. He was demonstrably peeved AND QUIT ON THE MOUND - when the team was struggling - and that is the best test.

As for quitting on the mound - he was called out several times before Acta was let go - in Cleveland Media and in the National media. Evidently that sad season was so dismal you just weren't watching, which I can understand then. But not when it comes to stumping for him now.

Just because Chris Perez was far more vocal doesn't excuse Ubaldo's complaints - it just provided cover. Nor does the fact he didn't start any brawls, in the locker room or on the field. Because that was the bar on Steinbrenner & Martin's Yankees, not anyone else.

So claiming he's been exemplary doesn't square with the facts - its more wishful thinking - we want Ubaldo back to win another 15+. And it irks the heck out of me. People are so eager to plug in his 15+ wins that they claim he is someone he isn't - and- completely discount WHY he won - namely better defense and delicate handling by Tito and Callaway.

By the way, there are just so many hours in the day. Mickey C devoted himself to this guy. So it is time this little bird flew on his own - ALLOWING MICKEY TO FOCUS SAID TALENT ON OTHER INDIANS PROSPECTS FOLKS.

Sure Ubaldo learned not to be the focal point of distraction. Because after all he wasn't just bad during Acta's waining days - HE WAS THE PITCHING EQUIVALENT OF ADAM DUNN - the worst starter in baseball!

@Joe Chengery...

I love your posts Joe but. You can't discount Ubaldo on the strength of his spotty performance and throw Pomeranz & White out with the injury bathwater.

Like most Tribe fans I was torn but excited with the move. I hated that we so overpaid - even though White had the infamous Adam Miller finger pull (Fortunately it was not as devastating as Millers).

That said. Colorado was seen as taking us early - and the injuries - and Ubaldo's resurgence (??? for those of not completely sold) flipped that, at least for some.

Still. I don't have a lot of respect for Dan O'Dowd - and this trade is part of the reason why. Nor do I understand why he has a job. If his franchise was suffering in attendance the way the Indians are, I doubt he would.

Despite his linage to the Indians, I just don't think he has done a very good job. Especially drafting and developing pitching. That made the Ubaldo trade all the more striking. Besides that he rudely fired two managers I respect with Hurdle and Tracy.

Hurdle has quickly made him look the fool for doing it - and tellingly - Tracy has yet to get another shot - and make no mistake, the stink of Ubaldo has something to do with that.

When it comes to White and Pom, White was good with us and he was regaining it in Houston before Tommy J. I still believe he will be a good one. And Pomeranz is in arguably the 3rd best pitching environment on the planet - next to Tampa and St. Louis.

I still think he is going to be a stud and Colorado screwed him up. Remember, they had this kid as part of their six-man 75 max pitch count experiment. And you also need to remember what kind of team he was playing with as well.

Oakland is a reboot.

As for all the problems this organization has had - I don't need to relive it - it was painful enough the first time around. I think farm will respectfully crack the top ten this year - and - undoubtedly - along with the positive changes via the CBA - we are back to where we were before the ten year drought; a good reliable solid club development wise.

Which is another reason why I don't care much for the keep Ubaldo movement. Don't like 'em, don't trust 'em, and don't want to see the FO take an unnecessary risk.
Canadian Joe
February 4, 2014 - 1:09 PM EST
Sorry Hermie. Years were off.
He was good in '08 and '09 and overall, better in '10. 2011,2012 and first half of '13 were bad, last half of, '13 very good.
Condensed, half a good year versus 2 and a half bad of the last 3 does not translate to the money and years he wants. The old "what have you done for me lately" story.
Joe Chengery
February 4, 2014 - 12:46 PM EST
The main point is that the Indians won't be able to sign frontline starters through free agency unless they are coming off of an injury or a very bad year or two. Could the Indians have afforded Shawn Marcum if he pitched his usual self and not been injured? I'm not so certain on that. Yet Jimenez has a better ceiling than Marcum as well.

In some ways, the Indians have to decide if they can afford to let an affordable ace go. From Rick's article, he seems to have figured things out,, and Callaway was largely the architect of that. As I mentioned before, Jimenez and every FA, including Masterson, would be best served to realize that the mega contracts (like Tulowitzki, Choo, Tanaka, and Kershaw got) are for the perceived elite. The way Jimenez and the others will get the most money is if they keep stringing together good seasons, so Jimenez SHOULD be motivated to keep pitching well, as that!s how he will earn the most. He did do it before in Colorado (oh, and he had two poor years-2011-2012, not three). Jimenez isn't perceived as elite because of his struggles in 2012 (not because of any issues in Colorado), especially when it came to his fastball velocity and the fact that any other team loses the pick and the bonus money with it. The Indians are the only ones who don't.

I think the Indians keep hesitating because of the presence of Masterson, thinking they have a legitimate chance to sign him. I'm not convinced, especially with a possible arbitration case pending and the amount asked for. The Indians may prefer his personality or persona, but it could backfire and cause them to lose both pitchers, something I don't think the Indians can afford. One of the two must be retained, both because of the FA landscape mentioned above and the state of the farm system. It is not strong enough to absorb two losses like that for draft picks, compensation, or nothing at all. Guys like Kime and Brady are too far away to know with any certainty that they can fill that hole, and FA pitchers who can really strengthen that rotation like a Jimenez can, or even a Masterson can, are almost never signed by the Indians in FA, so they must be developed or traded for. There aren't enough options close enough from the farm system to know you can fill both holes and also take into account if any of the three young, relatively inexperienced pitchers falter (Salazar, Kluber, McAllister). And, the farm system doesn't have enough perceived blue chippers to get a verifiable ace/upgrade to what we have without destroying all of our depth.

That is all the reason why I think Jimenez is worth the risk at the price and length being reported. If it backfires, yes, it could damage the Indians' financial flexibility a bit, but keep in mind that many of the younger prospects (Lindor, Aguilar, Moncrief, etc.) can help to lessen that burden a bit because they will replace some of the high-priced players (Cabrera, maybe Bourn, maybe Swisher down the line). Add in those young pitchers: They aren't to get raises for a few to several more seasons, further softening the blow if Jimenez falters, and it's certainly possible he won't falter, just as he did early in his career in Colorado. Plus, if the fans see Jimenez signed and he pitches well, that probably would help to boost ticket revenues.

I will tell you that if both Jimenez and Masterson get away for picks, the PR backlash the Indians will receive will destroy virtually everything they've gained this past season. And, that's what I fear is going to happen if Jimenez leaves because I am not confident that Masterson is resigned, and at the dollars he might command, I am not sure he should be signed at that amount and length, as I think Jimenez has the higher ceiling, and is cheaper. The only reason the Indians have this unique chance is because of the questions surrounding 2012 and the draft pick compensation/bonus pool tied to him. The Indians will be very hard-pressed to get a pitcher of that ceiling in a healthy state and coming off a strong year anytime in the near future via FA.
Joe Chengery
February 4, 2014 - 12:46 PM EST
Here's something else to consider: Troy Tulowitzki signed a 7-year $134M extension on Dec. 1, 2010.

See here:

Perhaps it was that huge contract that caused Jimenez to blow up, since that contract was out of sorts for the Rockies. Outside of maybe Todd Helton (who I don't think got as much) and Denny a eagle, the Rockies haven't spent tremendous amounts of cash on FAs. Including their own.

Should Jimenez have blown up and acted like he did? No. Is it a possibility he could do it again? It's possible, but being that he'll be one of the highest players on this team and there is no $100M man on this team, I think the chances are lessened, enough so where the risk has to be taken, especially when you consider the following:

1. 90-95% chance Masterson leaves after 2014, leaving a hole in the rotation. Can Anderson fill it by then? Hopefully, unless Bauer and Carrasco both develop or Tomlin and one of them show they can be effective mainstays in the rotation.

2. It's going to be harder to get impactful FA pitchers in the future. Hermie13, I think, mentioned Bronson Arroyo as a possibility. Problem is in my opinion, he's probably no more than a 5-starter in the AL, yet how much will he get per year? I'd say at least 6-8 M/yr, possibly up to $10 M/yr, probably not too far off from Jimenez's likely contract, yet a world of difference in terms of ceiling and ability.

February 4, 2014 - 12:46 PM EST
"A total of 2 good years, and 3 bad/mediocre years in the last 5 tells me the risk is too great for that kind of money."

Joe, are you still referring to Ubaldo here? If so, what are the 3 bad years in the last 5? Ubaldo was good before his breakout 2010 season, very good in fact. He was terrible in 2012, and I suppose you could call his 2011 bad too, but really he's had 2 bad years (at most) in his entire career. There's obviously risk with Ubaldo, but I still think when all is said and down people will look back on 2012 as the outlier in his career, not 2010.
Canadian Joe
February 4, 2014 - 12:24 PM EST
Oops ! Ubaldo.
Canadian Joe
February 4, 2014 - 11:48 AM EST
Tony, a great article, and judging by the feedback, a controversial one. Ubalso has sure taken the flak away from Cabrera, and that matter needs a resolution as well. Insofar as Ubaldo is concerned, he carries far too much baggage for me to want to throw $50 mil. his way. Perhaps it's a maturity issue, maybe health, or maybe the contract he signed 5 yrs. ago that he felt should have been re-negotiated. Whatever it is or was, the red flags are there, all of his own doing. There is no guarantee he will perform the way he did the last half of last year going forward. That, together with the draft pick and the pool money involved is just too high a price. One yr. at $11-13 mil. and show me you are back. Then, next year you can break the bank. A total of 2 good years, and 3 bad/mediocre years in the last 5 tells me the risk is too great for that kind of money.

Hermie, I wish they had transistors when I was in grade school.
February 4, 2014 - 11:07 AM EST
I wouldn't go so far as to say "low risk." Maybe after a good 2014 you'll be able to say that, but anyone who watched Ubaldo in 2012 will have a hard time forgetting just how terrible he was.

That said, what you say Rich is right on, and why I think Tony is WAY off on this one.

In the end, I think he gets too expensive for the Tribe, as I think he'll get four years and closer to $50m than $39m. Teams who are talking with him now may be worried about which Ubaldo is going to show up, but they're not worried about signing a "malcontent," they just aren't.
February 4, 2014 - 11:04 AM EST
through* (not threw, ugh)
February 4, 2014 - 10:58 AM EST
Please tell me I'm not the only one that used to do this...

Opening Day....sneaking in a portable radio and headphones, running the cord threw a long-sleeve shirt, covering my ear with my hand and listening to the Tribe game...all while sitting in class in grade school....
February 4, 2014 - 10:47 AM EST
Tony, I believe that Ubaldo is the perfect candidate for an incentive laden, 3 or 4 year vesting contract??
February 4, 2014 - 10:03 AM EST
A couple of points.

In 2009 Ubaldo signed for 4 years and $10 million, or $2.5 million per year. He won 15 games in 2009. In 2010 he went 15-1 the first half and started the All-Star game. At the time he was obscenely underpaid and it looked like he would continue to be obscenely underpaid for the next three years, assuming the 5th year option was exercised, which it was.

If he signs for $13 million with the Indians, or anybody, the chances of him being extremely underpaid are remote, if not impossible. The situation he was in with the Rockies will not be repeated unless he turns into a 25-game winner.

Tony claims the Rockies traded him because he was a malcontent. I think it had more to do with his performance. After going 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA in the first half of 2010, he went 4-7 with a 3.80 in the second half, and his fastball velocity dropped.

The following year his ERA in April and May was 6.75 and 5.45, respectively. His ERA at Coors Field was 5.55. His fastball velocity had dropped significantly and he was getting hammered.

Coors Field is known for destroying pitchers arms. I think the Rockies realized something was wrong with Ubaldo and decided to move him before his value plummeted. The Indians were offering Pomeranz and White for damaged goods, so the Rockies took a calculated risk.

Since coming to the Indians there has been not a whiff of information that Ubaldo has been anything other than a hard-working, well-liked, and well-respected teammate. He has consistently said that he loves Cleveland. He turned around his career and got back to being a successful pitcher here.

Finally, this is the best column I've read on Ubaldo (linked below). It shows his determination to get back to being a successful pitcher and his tremendous work ethic.

I think this is a low-risk signing, all things considered. I urge everyone to read this column before venturing further opinions.
February 4, 2014 - 9:18 AM EST
Joe, to be clear, I am not concerned at all with the Indians receiving compensation for Ubaldo. Even if they received no compensation I would be hesitant to resign him for the same reasons. This is simply a matter or determining if he is the right risk even if the "price is right". He has shown in the the past when the price was right for a team but ultimately not for him, he was a problem for the team. There was a huge divide in the locker room because of it and ultimately why Jimenez was traded.
February 4, 2014 - 3:04 AM EST
Hi Rick.

Re "You are indulging in childlike wishful thinking to the point of delusion. Where has there been some 'bring back Ubaldo' suggestions from tribe teammates? Where have you even heard any well wishes in the event he scores a big deal elsewhere?"

Hmm. I haven't, and I don't think I said that there were any such suggestions or well wishes. But who knows, maybe there were and I just don't realize it? 8--0

Tony doesn't need you to defend him, but I do feel like I was a little too hard on a guy who does an EXCELLENT job with this site and who I have a lot of respect for. And to be clear, I didn't accuse him of saying things he didn't say, or call him names, I just happen to disagree with him -- quite strongly -- about Ubaldo having an attitude problem to the degree that it should be the reason that prevents the tribe from re-upping for another 1-3 year tour of duty IF the price is right.
Joe Chengery
February 4, 2014 - 12:41 AM EST
Sure, Jimenez is a risk (as is Masterson, for different reasons), but you do wonder if Jimenez sees the folly of his ways back when he was a younger age. If I'm correct, didn't the Rockies just trade Pomeranz to the A's this past offseason? One has to wonder if they are more risk-averse than most organizations when it comes to their young players; while Pomeranz hasn't developed (another Indians' pick not living up to his projected ceiling, just as Alex White hasn't, both of whom were aggressive signings, and especially White), it's probably safe to assume that the drunken incident Pomeranz was involved in didn't help his standing with the Rockies either; after all Pomeranz isn't that old, and still could be a useful for a team that is still largely rebuilding, yet gave him away (can't remember for whom, Anderson?) after only having him for 2 years. That's something else to consider with the Jimenez situation- the Rockies may be more risk-averse than most; as for Tulowitski, being considered the leader of that team, it's natural for him to speak out, so that's not too surprising he would.

If Jimenez does have the right focus now, he probably could get one to two more contracts after this for similar length and more money, so it would be in his best interest to keep pitching well and proving last year was no fluke. Heck, with his good durability so far, it's not out of the question for him to be pitching at Colon's age, so even a third contract after this one wouldn't be out of the question.

And, really, that's how most FA players, especially pitchers, are going to make the bulk of their money nowadays- unless you're elite, you're not going to get those 9-figure contracts for 5+ years anymore; you're going to have to prove yourself for 2-4 year contract stints. Therefore, for Jimenez, Masterson, and others, the sooner they realize that, the more focused they can be and the better off they will be, both professionally and financially. Whether Jimenez is (or even Masterson, for that matter), we'll see, but if the players don't, the agents should, and be advising them accordingly. This new FA landscape isn't going away anytime soon; the question is, how soon players and agents start realizing and adapting accordingly. While Jimenez's history doesn't provide a strong case, one could argue (and already has on this site, by you, I think) that Masterson isn't doing himself any favors by pushing the high dollar amount in arbitration and more seriously considering a long-term deal with the Indians, since he isn't likely to get anywhere near a Tanaka or Kershaw deal. He might get a bit more than Garza deal (maybe 4 years, $60M or so), but not in that otherworldly contract range like he and is agent seem to think he will next offseason.
Joe Chengery
February 4, 2014 - 12:41 AM EST

You make a good point about Jimenez's history, but I think the Indians' poor history of drafting weakens your argument considerably in letting Jimenez go. I know you're talking about the bonus money and the ability to be aggressive rather than the pick itself, but what has that "aggression" gotten the Indians in the past? Not much, unfortunately.

Take for example 16th-rounder T.J House. I know he was talked about as a frontline starter at one point a year or two ago, or at least a 3 starter. Now, it seems he's projected to be a 4-5 starter. If the Indians have had any starting pitching depth in the minors over the years, it's been more of the 4-5 types. That's why Salazar's ascension has been so noteworthy, as has Kluber's and McAllister's. That's why many of us see Anderson on the radar screen and think, "please keep coming and don't lose your ceiling" as House and many other starting pitching prospects have over the years: Guthrie, Denham, Martin, Dittler, Sowers, etc, etc. Not all of them were projected as frontline starters, but some of them were, and most of them were considered at least 3 starters, even Sowers (some even thought as a two for a brief period).

Yet, NONE of them developed, and some of those signings were of the "more aggressive" variety, such as Guthrie, House, even Denham. Combine that with Matthew's list from the other thread on the Indians' very poor first-round selections over the last 20-25 years, and you have to seriously question how much value the Indians will derive from that extra pool money and being able to be aggressive. Even the recent regime hasn't been great to this point, and it's early, granted, but picks like Howard does have to give even the most supportive fans pause on whether this regime will be any better than Shapiro and Hart. Many question the Naquin pick: If he can turn into a solid or stellar starting CFer (either for the Indians or for another team via a worthwhile trade), then Antonetti will look much better, but if he's only a 4th OFer, we've got Trevor Crowe all over again. Frazier has nice potential, but is still very far away.

And I can't recall if Lindor was an Antonetti or Shapiro pick (with Antonetti directing/advising him), but that pick was almost a gimme in my book because, if the Indians messed that one up, then you have to question whether the Indians should be drafting at all. Who wouldn't want a premium, young SS prospect with four to five tools as their first-round pick? That's similar to when the Cavaliers had the choice between Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams- for all the questions and flaws in Irving, you'd still take the premium point guard to build your team over the power or small forward (and really, Williams was a tweener and neither one)- essentially, a gimme decision too.

If the Indians were drafting better, and no one can say with any degree of certainty that Antonetti will be any better than Shapiro and Hart at drafting, your argument for letting Jimenez go and keeping Masterson all year for the likely compensation pick (I believe Masterson is 90-95% likely to not be in Cleveland in 2015) would be stronger, but you do have to ask if you can better strengthen the current team's and the organization's overall chances of winning a World Series this decade if you resign Jimenez and trade Masterson IF the right trade presents itself (otherwise, you do keep him), as I'm not convinced the extra pool money and the extra aggression it brings will lead to much value or strengthening for the Indians over the long-term. This is coming from someone who likes building the farm system and getting better from within, but with the Indians' draft struggles, I question whether that extra money will really bring more value and a better chance of winning the World Series than resigning a frontline pitcher at a relatively bargain price in today's FA market and having the ability to trade a solid asset for pieces that can help you now and the rest of this decade rather than wait and hope that you get equally strong or better pieces 4-5 years down the line when much of your roster will have turned over (Santana, Bradley, even Kipnis, may be gone or on the way out by then, possibly even guys like Gomes, Kluber, McAllister).

February 4, 2014 - 12:18 AM EST
@pathofkindness - what hit piece? Please point out what and where Tony got the Colorado years wrong. In fact he went light on Ubaldo.

His manager Tracy was very explicit. Tolo was explicit. And not one player in that clubhouse - no matter what their ethic background - carried water for Jimenez. Go back and read this, and don't skip Tracy Ringlesby's take on it - who is not only a respected national sportswriter, but the bar none sports authority on Colorado baseball.

Ubaldo was a divisive diva nightmare in Colorado - and the Indians knew it and still took a chance on him. Because of that electrifying first half.

You are indulging in childlike wishful thinking to the point of delusion. Where has there been some 'bring back Ubaldo' suggestions from tribe teammates? Where have you even heard any well wishes in the event he scores a big deal elsewhere?

I have no doubt that if Antonetti could take it back he would. It was a mistake. They pulled that trigger as much because they hoped a revived lineup - with a high profile #1 starter - would bring back the fan base.

Well we all know what happened.

You make credit him with maturing but I have never seen any of it. Tony raises a legit if uncomfortable question; was Ubaldo on his best behavior because he was a committed team player - or because he was in his walk year?

Because he was a weasel when the team was imploding. He was one of the few players to publicly turn on Acta when Acta was at his most vulnerable - and he pouted on the mound with even more frequency that he did in Colorado.

This is a guy who quit on the mound when poor defense on a franchise in free fall pressured him and taxed his patience.

He is selfish and immature and untrustworthy.

That matters a lot when tens of millions of dollars are riding on giving the extra years - which is what is happening in this market.

There is no reason the Indians should take ANY RISK on this guy. Let him surrender and crawl back for a one year.

Winning organizations have taken this guy off their board. They want winners. Ubaldo has talent but he isn't a winner.
February 3, 2014 - 11:57 PM EST
I know its not there as he declined. I said 'if' he accepted.

My point is non elite players now see the risk of declining. So maybe next year they start accepting. As you said tony, what if U accepted last November? Then what would the tribe do? They never expected he would accept. But what if he did?

What if we sign U next week for 12 mil. And he has a good but not great year. Do we QO after this year and risk him accepting for 15 mil for next year?????

Teams with protected picks have nothing to lose. And big markets or winning teams will not hesitate to sign a stud. Key word being stud. No one cares about a pick and pool money if they can sign lester, scherzer and the like.

I think QOs are only hurting the above avg players like those still without contracts now.
February 3, 2014 - 11:15 PM EST
Jimenez already declined the qualifying offer back in early November, so it is no longer available for him to get. Him declining is why the Indians will receive draft compensation if he signs elsewhere and why a team has to pay draft compensation. Also, again, it is not the draft pick which teams are most concerned about losing, it is the bonus pool money to sign draft picks. It is crippling to lose that money.....not the pick.

I agree with Rocky though in that I like the qualifying offer. It adds some leverage for teams who maybe want to keep borderline stars or non-elite (but good players) rather than having to trade them because they know they are unsignable on the open market. A player with a QO simply does not have an open market as there are about 12-15 teams that simply refuse to sign any player with a QO and draft compensation attached to them.
February 3, 2014 - 11:11 PM EST
The QO is not such a bad thing. We'll see what he gets, but I doubt its more than 14 to 15 per year. If he accepted the QO he would get over 14 this year. And if he got QO'd next year he could accept again and get about 15 next year too!

Anyone think he's worth a 2 year at_about 29 mil? But if he took a QO this year and next, that's what he gets.

And QO's have only depressed the market for non elite players. Which is a good thing. No team is going to decline signing a stud because it may lose a 1st round pick. Especially when its pick is out of the top 10.

No one would sign U, arroyo or e. satana for 3 at 15 or more per year. With or without a QO. Think lester or scherzer and players like that have to worry about a depressed market if they become FAs?
February 3, 2014 - 10:54 PM EST
Path, my intention of the word malcontent is not in the vein that he is an outward jerk and causes all kinds of problems a la a Dennis Rodman. It's more in the vein that in the past he was a problem because of his dissatisfaction with his contract and it carried over into his performance and affected his teammates for a half year in much so that the organization wiped their hands clean of him. His issues with his contract took his focus away from what he should be doing.....pitching....and it suffered as a result. His 2012 season may have been a hangover from the whole ordeal in 2011. And for all we know the problem is behind him and he truly has matured. I am just openly expressing a concern that past history has shown how much he openly griped about a low market deal, and that if he resigns with the Indians to another low market deal that there may be a risk involved there with him falling back into the problems he had three years ago (which is not long ago) with him losing that focus.
February 3, 2014 - 5:10 PM EST
Another thing, not sure what the consensus is but I love the qualifying offer rule. A little more compensation for the smaller market teams is a good thing.

One more thing Tony, I used to listen to game all the time while cutting the grass. We had a high tech gadget called a transistor radio.
February 3, 2014 - 4:59 PM EST
Well, if we're worried about motivation we could give Ubie some incentive like a contract loaded with...incentives.
February 3, 2014 - 4:51 PM EST
Wow Tony, your statement that "Jimenez has proven to be a malcontent in the past" and that being the reason not to sign him is completely ridiculous!

First off, the incident that you cite as evidence was a long time ago, when Ubaldo was a much younger person, in a completely different context and situation. I have NEVER heard Antonetti, Acta, Francona, Shapiro, Callaway or any of the other members of the Tribe brain-trust or any other player he's played w here ever question Ubaldo's attitude. Sure, he's been confused, he's struggled, he's maybe at times been stubborn, and certainly has had some kind of a crisis of confidence these past few years, but he has not been a player with an attitude problem. He just hasn't, and to me, as reader, it sounds like your just making sh*t up.

Why would you want to do a hit piece on Ubaldo about something he went through years ago? He's a different person now, he's been through a lot since those days in CO, and whatever he did to make Troy upset was really not even that bad. He complained about not getting paid enough? Heck, that happens all the time Tony, and you know as well as anyone that there's a long and storied tradition in baseball of players publicly negotiating with rich and stingy owners. Does that mean they have an attitude problem and can't be trusted and should never be signed. I don't think so.

As you note later in the piece, this game really is a business and these guys are here to make their money, and when they produce they want to get paid. I don't begrudge them that. And, if they don't have any leverage because they signed a contract, that's their problem. This isn't Kevin out in a corn field.

That said, I'm with you with you in the sense that signing Ubaldo is a big risk, and the mental aspects of his game are part of that risk. I just think its ridiculous to characterize him as a player with an "attitude problem."
February 3, 2014 - 4:25 PM EST
As far as a 1 year deal for Ubaldo....I do think it could work. Sure Ubaldo could end up in the same situation next year, but if he is good enough in 2014 that he requires another QO, teams will now be looking at a guy that had back-to-back good years and could view him differently. Still don't think he'll get huge money, but could still snag a 3 year deal worth more than $14M, on top of the $12-14M he'd get in 2014. It'd be a gamble on his part but a gamble that could pay off.

Don't believe a 1-year deal actually will happen, but think it does make some sense for both sides.
February 3, 2014 - 4:20 PM EST
In a perfect world you probably pass on Ubaldo and get the pick. Then Masterson, Kluber, Salazar, and McAllister are a solid front 4 with one of Carrasco, Marcum, Bauer, or Tomlin stepping up for the 5th spot.

Unfortunately things never work out perfectly in baseball. In 2007 we seemed set with Lee and Sowers in a rotation with CC, Westbrook, and Byrd....injuries and bad years struck, but luckily we had Carmona in the wings to step up. Last year we started with Masterson, Ubaldo, McAllister, Myers, and Kazmir....Myers goes down early but luckily we had Kluber who stepped up (cause Carrasco and Bauer couldn't).

Having Ubaldo gives you that added depth for when one of Masterson, Kluber, Salazar, or McAllister get hurt/regress. So while I do feel confident one of Carracsco/Bauer/Tomlin/Marcum step up to fill that 5th spot....equally likely that one of the Masterson/Kluber/Salazar/McAllister need replaced at some point. IMO if the Tribe truly wants to make the playoffs in 2014 (and I believe that is the goal) they almost have to add a starter, even if it's not Ubaldo. Definitely a risk with Ubaldo...but weighing that risk and looking at the rotation as it currently is...think you roll the dice if his price falls enough. If you miss out on you hope for Burnett or Arroyo? Or make a trade?
February 3, 2014 - 3:55 PM EST
I can so relate to looking at baseball and life a bit differently as we progress through life - my perception of music has some changes too, songs I found somewhat boring in my youth often speak to me now.

I'd pass on spending big cash on Ubaldo, he's just too quirky and odd and as good as he was last season I don't really trust him. I admit being a fan of Tomlin, he was so fun to watch the year before his arm troubles. His chances for a rotation spot aren't so great but at worst if healthy he's good depth.
February 3, 2014 - 3:06 PM EST
But that's the thing Daingean. I no doubt believe in Callaway. But the reason things worked with Callaway and Jimenez last year was his willingness to work and also his commitment to his work. The focus was there more because of the great unknown with his contract after the season. If he signs a multi-year deal, and one well below market value or what he was expecting.....does the focus disappear and do some of the emotional and mental issues which plagued him because of his contract situation in the past creep in again?
February 3, 2014 - 2:46 PM EST
I would say that for the Indians he's worth the risk as long as Mickey Calloway is the pitching coach. I think U has demonstrated that he's a mess but like David playing his harp helped to control King Saul's madness, Mickey C makes U's mess work. Truthfully if MC wasn't the pitching coach, I wouldn't sign U anyway. I think if anyone other than us w/MC signs him it will be a waste of money.

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