The Cleveland Indians should sign Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jon Heyman reported on Monday’s MLB Tonight that Ubaldo had dropped his contract demands further and was seeking a three-year, $39 million dollar deal.
That puts Jimenez right in the Tribe’s money wheelhouse.
On October 9th, I speculated that Jimenez would have a floor of three years and $33 million, with a ceiling of three and $39. While there were more years and bigger numbers being discussed by his agent, money expectations for Jimenez had to be tempered a bit because of his overall body of work with the Indians. While he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball last August and September, he was far from it in his previous two seasons with the Tribe.
Jimenez is the pure definition of dichotomy as a starting pitcher. On one side of the coin, he is a flawed pitcher that struggles to throw strikes. On the flip-side, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball when everything is clicking, who works the zone, confuses hitters, and can carry a team.Signing Ubaldo would be very different than their normal operational procedures. Not only would the Indians be taking a risk for a big money signing, but they would be re-acquiring a pitcher past arbitration to a long-term deal. This isn’t something that a regime connected to Mark Shapiro likes to do.
The payoff is wrapping up a potential ace to an economical contract by today’s standards, and a gamble the Indians have to make to contend thanks to a dearth of pitching talent developed in-house.
In a worse-case scenario, the Indians are only on the hook for three years. A contract like that can be a bit of an albatross to a small-market team, but Ubaldo’s durability alone will allow him to maintain the #5 spot in the rotation, while low-salary youngsters like Danny Salazar, Cody Anderson, Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer would counter-act his deal over the short-term, ensuring minimal value at the very least.
In other words, the risk isn’t as bad as you think.
The upside of Ubaldo Jimenez was evident last season for the Tribe when he carried the rotation through a September in which Justin Masterson was injured, while both Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister were shells of their former selves while recovering from their middle finger sprains.
With talks of extending “ace” Justin Masterson currently in limbo, signing Jimenez would allow the team to explore trade options for Masty while maintaining their rotational integrity in 2014. It helps build the kind of roster-balance that GM Chris Antonetti has been reaching for since signing Terry Francona; allowing the team to win now, while still building for the future.
Ubaldo Jimenez isn’t perfect nor is he a sure-thing, but for the Indians, he may be the best option for returning to the playoffs in 2014.
Only in Cleveland, right?