Well it’s officially over. Ubaldo Jimenez agreed to a four year $50 million dollar deal with the Baltimore Orioles on Monday, closing the door on any reunion with the Cleveland Indians. Reaction to this deal among fans, members of the media, and the blogosphere has been mixed. Some are relieved that the Indians didn’t give a huge contract to a pitcher who has been inconsistent to say the least during his tenure with the team. Others felt that letting Jimenez go was a sign that the Tribe had returned to the nickel-and-dime spending that the franchise was known for prior to the signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Today It’s Pronounced Lajaway will take a look at the reasons it made sense to let last September’s American League Pitcher of the Month leave in free agency.
The Indians Valued Their First Round Draft Pick
While the Indians’ draft record over the last decade has been less than stellar, that does not minimize the importance of draft picks for this small market team. The harsh reality is that the Indians will never be a player for most elite free agents and will have to develop their own talent to compete for the playoffs regularly. This was true during the days of Sandy Alomar, Charlie Nagy, and Jim Thome and it is just as true today. With the exception of Swisher and Bourn, most of the core members of the team have spent their entire major league career with the Indians, most notably Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, and Asdrubal Cabrera. This makes the next point equally important.
They Also Valued an Additional First Round Pick
Every team in Major League Baseball spends millions upon millions of dollars on the drafting and developing of young prospects, but even with this large investment, there are always risks. Even the best organizations have had high draft picks flame out before even reaching the big leagues. Therefore having more draft picks gives teams a greater chances of drafting and developing a key player simply because they will have more chances to do so. At some point it seems that the Indians may have decided the extra pick they will receive from the Baltimore Orioles as compensation for Jimenez was worth more than the pitcher himself.
Jimenez’s Struggles Speak for Themselves
Opinions on Jimenez’s time with this Indians prior to last season ranged from disappointing to total disaster. From the time he joined the Tribe midway through 2011 through the end of 2012, Jimenez had a 5.29 ERA while averaging less than six inning per start. In fact, even during his comeback performance last season, Jimenez averaged less than six innings per start every month of the season until September. While Jimenez is durable and never missed a start during his time in Cleveland, having a starting pitcher who can’t be counted on to go six innings puts tremendous stress on a team’s bullpen.
The Indians have Depth in their Rotation
Make no mistake, the Cleveland Indians would not have returned to the playoffs without the tremendous pitching of Ubaldo Jimenez down the stretch. He was dominant in September when the team needed him to be after Justin Masterson went down to injury. That being said, on the season Jimenez was definitely behind Masterson in the rotation’s pecking order, with Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber not far behind him. Add in last season’s rookie sensation Danny Salazar, top prospect Trevor Bauer, as well as the hoped return to form for both Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin after both missed much of the last two seasons with injury, and the Indians seem to have real depth in their starting rotation. Even spring training invites Aaron Harang and Shaun Marcum may help this season if only for the final point in why the Cleveland Indians can say goodbye to Ubaldo Jimenez.
Mickey Callaway and Kevin Cash
While Callaway gets the lion’s share of the credit in the media, both of these men have done a tremendous job with the Indians’ pitching staff. Their work helped every pitcher in the starting rotation have either a career year or their best season in years. Most impressively they helped Scott Kazmir reclaim his status as a solid Major League starter one year after he was pitching in the independent Atlantic League. There is no reason to believe that Callaway and Cash cannot repeat this with at least one of Tomlin, Carrasco, Harang, or Marcum.
When all was said and done, the trade of Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011 has worked out for the Cleveland Indians. While Drew Pomeranz and Alex White have since been traded away by the Colorado Rockies, Jimenez was a big part of the Tribe’s first postseason berth since 2007. However as great as he was down the stretch last year, it simply didn’t make sense for the Cleveland Indians to continue their relationship with him.