In Part I of this two-part series, we looked at the possible types of deals by which Ubaldo Jimenez could return to the Tribe in 2014. In this part, I will explore the teams that could be competing against the Indians for Ubaldo’s services, and why they may or may not be interested in giving him the type of contract he desires.
But first, I want to update something I said in the first part. I originally thought that players could sign an offer sheet after rejecting it, and this was wrong. Ubaldo rejected the $14.1 (approximate) million dollar offer the Indians tendered him at the end of the season, and this served only to tie him to draft pick compensation. With that option off the table, I’d say there’s a ~2% chance Ubaldo signs a strict one-year deal with the Tribe, meaning ultimately I believe there is a 27% chance the Indians retain their ace from the second half of last season.
In a vacuum, I’d agree with most of the comments that this percentage is too high. It does, however, take two to tango, and I have yet to see a serious suitor emerge for Ubaldo’s services.
Why hasn’t a suitor emerged? It all goes back to draft-pick compensation, wherein a team would surrender their first round pick (so long as it was outside the top 10) in order to sign a free agent tendered an offer by his former team. As we saw last offseason with Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, this is a very real deterrent for 2/3rds of the league, unless you happen to be a top tier free agent like Robinson Cano (and Ubaldo, despite his end to 2013, is not Robinson Cano).
Additionally, considering the money Ubaldo wants, we can safely eliminate a number of teams from the list of suitors. By my estimation, the follow teams have 0% chance of signing Ubaldo, be it due to finances, draft pick consideration, lack of interest, or some combination thereof:
New York Yankees
That’s 20 teams, which still leaves 9 other teams. Of the remaining teams, I consider the following highly unlikely to sign Ubaldo, mostly because of draft pick status and/or status as a non-contender:
Ultimately, that leaves us with a list of six teams who could conceivably be interested in Ubaldo:
1) New York Mets
2) Philadelphia Phillies
3) Toronto Blue Jays
4) Seattle Mariners
5) Los Angeles Dodgers
6) Detroit Tigers
I think it ultimately comes down to a much shorter list than these six teams, but let’s take a second and explain why I’m eliminating part of the list:
1) New York Mets
The Mets have money to spend, and they would not lose their 1st round pick if they signed Ubaldo, but I am very skeptical that they want to spend 70-100 million on a guy who is a season removed from being one of the worst pitchers in baseball. I think that the Mets would have to be convinced that Ubaldo would put them over the top in the NL East, and I just don’t see it. Atlanta and Washington are clearly superior teams.
Chances the Mets sign Ubaldo: 2%
2) Philadelphia Phillies
Another team that would not have to surrender its draft pick to sign Ubaldo, the Phillies perplexed everyone in 2013 as they tried to win with a flawed and aging roster. Logically, I would say they are poised to rebuild and retool for the future, but I have to give them a chance to sign Jimenez purely because they might be run by the most insane management team this side of Jerry Jones in Dallas.
Chances the Phillies sign Ubaldo: 2%
3) Detroit Tigers
This is a team I have not seen mentioned on ESPN and other sites as a potential suitor, but it makes sense. Ubaldo is a fly ball pitcher, and that works well in Comerica. The Tigers don’t aren’t really strapped for cash, but I don’t get the sense they want to commit 100 million to any player not named Max Scherzer right now. Still, signing Ubaldo would weaken their biggest division rival, so I can’t rule it out.
Chances the Tigers sign Ubaldo: 2%
So, we’re down to three teams: Toronto, LA Dodgers, and Seattle… and by my arbitrary calculations we have 64% likelihood unaccounted for. In order from least likely to most likely, here are these teams:
-Toronto Blue Jays
This team desperately wants to win, and they have some big question marks in their rotation. Admittedly, I’m not quite sure of their status in the 1st round as they have two picks (because their 1st rounder last season didn’t sign). I believe they would stand to lose the 11th pick in the draft, but would still have the 9th pick.
Ubaldo makes a lot of sense for the Jays, and while they can afford him, I think the cost will ultimately outweigh the risk. This team was in win-now mode last year and may be desperate enough to take the plunge, but I have to file it under unlikely.
Chances the Jays sign Ubaldo: 10%
-Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers would surrender the 23rd pick in the draft, which is not a huge deterrent to a team with championship aspirations.
Ubaldo would be a natural fit in Chavez Ravine, as it is a pitcher’s park that suits Ubaldo’s biggest weakness — fly balls. The team also has an opening in their rotation with the disappointing Chris Capuano a free agent this offseason. Make no mistake, the Dodgers are a front-runner for Ubaldo, but I can’t help but think the team will hesitate to give $100 million and a draft pick to what would be a middle-of-the-rotation arm for them. The Dodgers are under no urgency to upgrade a rotation headlined by Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke. For that reason, I don’t have the Dodgers as the #1 threat to sign Ubaldo.
Chances the Dodgers sign Ubaldo: 24%
If the Mariners weren’t my #1 choice to sign Ubaldo at the end of the season, they have to be now when they announced the massive contract of recently-acquired Robinson Cano from the Yankees. Make no mistake, this is a team looking to win now.
First, let’s list the reasons the Mariners might sign Ubaldo:
-They won’t give up their 1st round pick
-The Mariners only had two quality starters in 2013 in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma
-They have a ton of money
-Safeco is a pitchers park, which mitigates a lot of the risk with Ubaldo
Now, let’s look at the reasons they won’t sign him:
-Despite having a ton of cash, they committed a ton of money to Robinson Cano and probably need to spend further to protect him in the lineup. Look for them to sign Nelson Cruz for seven-figures.
-If they do look for pitching, I think they’re more likely to sign Japanese phenom Tanaka or Matt Garza, who may come cheaper than Ubaldo.
-The concerns that Ubaldo’s second half was a fluke
Ultimately, I have to give the Mariners respect and say that the chances they sign Ubaldo are roughly 30%
The Indians are playing this saga out perfectly, not that they have many options. They will need to wait and hope that teams like the Mariners and Dodgers are scared off by draft-pick compensation and Ubaldo’s shaky history, and it just might work out. There’s always the chance that a mystery team such as the Tigers or Blue Jays sweep in and steal the right hander, but the Indians will live with that.
Ubaldo is not worth $100 million, frankly. As much as I want to completely credit Mickey Callaway with the performance Jimenez had last season, it’s very reasonable it was just a fluke. Though the Indians may need him back, they are in no position to negotiate a 9-figure deal with anyone. If enough teams are scared off for long enough, I believe Ubaldo will look at the Indians history (winning is a huge plus for anyone) and come back to prove himself on a short-term deal. I don’t think this likelihood can be discounted, and I think there’s a very live chance he’s pitching for the Tribe next season.
But just like the big league club, we’re still Waiting on Ubaldo.