This spring when I was in Arizona, I managed to make it to six different spring training games – four Indians games, an Angels game, and a Rockies game at their new complex (which is beautiful, by the way). The starter that day for the Rockies was Ubaldo Jimenez and he was masterful. He was perfect in his time on the mound that day; he didn’t hit his pitch count until the 5th or 6th inning (the pitcher for the Padres hit his count several innings earlier). At that moment, I was a little envious of Rockies fans becuase I thought to myself, “If that guy pitches like that all season, they’re on their way back to the World Series.” Obviously that wasn’t the case, as he’s not only had his share of ups and downs this season, but is also no longer with the Colorado Rockies. It remains to be seen if he’ll still lead a team to the World Series in 2011.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Ubaldo Jimenez trade since the parameters were first announced last night. My opinion has shifted back and forth several times; I guess this is due to the fact that this deal could end up being awesome or terrible. Unfortunately, it could be several years before we can truly rate the outcome of this trade, and its impact on the 2011 season still remains to be seen as well. I must admit, despite the rather large bounty the Tribe surrendered for Jimenez, I was more than a little excited when I first heard about it. How many times during the better part of the last 9 seasons have we watched the big star leave town? It did feel pretty good to see someone coming in the opposite direction for once. However, a few hours later a friend left a message asking if Jimenez meant the Indians were World Series bound. My response? Not unless Jimenez can hit as well. The Indians supposedly looked at 75 different players as they planned a trade; you have to give them credit for ending up with one of the bigger stars available.
For me, I think this all boils down to proven and unproven. While the players surrendered to Colorado (particularly Alex White and Drew Pomeranz) have extremely high upsides, as of yet they are unproven in the Major Leagues. Even though Alex White had two starts at the Major League level, it’s yet undetermined how he’ll hold up over time in the Majors, and how he’ll pitch after his finger injury. Pomeranz may end up sustaining some injury as well, or perhaps he won’t able to make a smooth jump to Triple-A and then the Majors. I’m still haunted by the story of Adam Miller, one of the Indians’ highly-touted prospects of the past that is now trying to rebuild his career in the minors. There were rumors floating around that prior to the 2008 season, the Indians considered trading for Dan Haren with Miller as the centerpiece. They balked at the deal, and Miller has still yet to pitch in a Major League game. Even though Jimenez has declined some since the 2010 All Star break, his physical checked out and he has a proven track record of Major League success in his past. Jeff Passan took an interesting look at the success of highly-touted pitching prospects and actually said the Indians made an excellent deal. As much as the paranoid part of me thinks “Wow, the Rockies gave up on Jimenez rather quickly…do they know something we don’t?,” there’s another part of me that thinks, “Wow, the Indians really gave up on White and Pomeranz really quickly…do we know something they don’t?” I’ll take a look at the players the Indians gave up, and you can decide if the deal is worth the risk.
Alex White remained consistent as he climbed the ladder throughout the Indians’ minor league system. Taken in the first round of the 2009 draft (15th overall), the 22-year-old White split 2010 between the high-level Class A Kinston Indians and the Double-A Akron Aeros. InKinston, he was 2-3 with a 2.86 ERA, and 1.16 WHIP in 44 innings. He averaged 3.9 walks per 9 innings, 8.4 strikeouts per 9 innings, and 0.8 home runs per 9 innings. Once he moved toAkron, White was 8-7 with a 2.28 ERA, and 1.11 WHIP in 106.2 innings. Briefly atColumbus in 2011, White was 1-0 with a 1.90 ERA, and a 1.01 WHIP in 23.2 innings pitched. He averaged 1.9 walks/9, 10.6 strikeouts/9, and 0.4 home runs/9. Before his injury with the Indians White was 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA, and a 1.53 WHIP in 15 innings. He averaged 5.4 walks/9, 7.8 strikeouts/9 and 1.8 home runs/9.
Drew Pomeranz, drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft (5th overall), was recently promoted to Double-A Akron from Class-A Kinston. In Kinston he was 3-2 with a 1.87 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 77 innings pitched. He averaged 3.7 walks/9, 11.1 strikeouts/9, and 0.2 home runs per 9. Since his promotion to Akron, he is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 14 innings. He is averaging 3.9 walks/9, 10.9 strikeouts/9, and 0.6 home runs/9.
Matt McBride was drafted in the second round by the Indians in 2006. The 26-year-old has had the full tour of the Indians farm system – he’s spent time with Mahoning Valley, the Gulf Coast League Indians, Lake County, Kinston, Akron, and Columbus. It hasn’t always been a straight climb for McBride through the system; at times he’s been sent back to a lower level team. Rather than comb through five years of stats, I’ll just focus on 2010 and 2011, where he spent both seasons split between Akron and Columbus. In 2010 with Akron he hit .283, with a .347 OBP, and .499 slugging in 96 games. With Columbus he hit .269 with a .296 OBP and .420 slugging in 31 games. In 2011 with Akron, he hit .297 with a .359 OBP and .535 slugging in 84 games. With Columbus, he hit .156 with a .191 OBP and .267 slugging in 12 games.
Joe Gardner, a right handed pitcher, was drafted by the Indians in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft. In 2010 he split his time between low Class-A Lake County and Kinston – in Lake County he was 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 25 innings pitched. He averaged 4.0 walks/9, 13.7 strikeouts/9, and 0.7 home runs/9. At Kinston he was 12-6 with a 2.65 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 122.1 innings; he averaged 3.8 walks/9, 7.7 strikeouts/9, and 0.3 home runs/9. In Akron in 2011, he was 7-8 with a 4.99 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 97.1 innings; he averaged 4.3 walks/9, 5.5 strikeouts/9, and 0.6 home runs/9.
With trades like these, you truly never know for sure how it will work out. The centerpiece of the CC Sabathia deal back in 2008 was Matt LaPorta; one could argue that Michael Brantley was almost the better part of that deal. So far, the results of the 2009 Cliff Lee trade have been pretty uneven; in fact, the Indians claim that Jason Knapp was the true centerpiece (or at least say the deal doesn’t get done without Knapp). He’s continually injured, and it’s uncertain if he’ll ever make it to the Majors. Jimenez takes Mitch Talbot’s roster spot; Talbot was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man. Hopefully history will smile upon Chris Antonetti and the Indians for the Ubaldo Jimenez deal.