A farewell to arms

November 11, 2013

When pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Goodyear, Arizona, next February, it’s likely that five of the pitchers who toiled for the Indians in 2013 will not be on hand. Four of the pitchers the Indians relied on this past season—starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir and relievers Joe Smith and Matt Albers—are likely to test the free agent market. A fifth, former closer Chris Perez, was released by the team on October 31.

Given that Jimenez pitched like an ace during the second half of this past season, regaining the control he had during the 2010 season when, as a member of the Colorado Rockies, he finished third in the National League Cy Young voting, the Indians would very much like to have Jimenez return as their #1 or #2 starter. But as was expected to happen, it’s been reported that Jimenez has turned down the Indians’ qualifying offer of $14.1 million for the 2014 season. The Indians are free to negotiate with Jimenez, but he is now also free to negotiate with any other major league team.

Jimenez is reportedly seeking a three-to-five year contract, and is hoping to be paid in the range of $12 to $15 million per year. It’s not likely the Indians can or will offer him that kind of money for so long a time. The Los Angeles Dodgers are among the teams who are known to be interested in signing the right-handed pitcher, and I can’t help but think that the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox would be glad to have Jimenez wear their uniform as well. The good news is that should Jimenez sign with another team, the Indians would receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds of next June’s draft. Odds against Jimenez returning to the Indians: 50-1.

The Indians would like to see lefty Kazmir return to the club in 2014 as well, but the team is reportedly reluctant to give him a multi-year contract. Even more than a large salary, what most free agents want, and what the good ones usually get, is a multi-year deal. If the Indians don’t offer one to Kazmir, some other team will, and he will accept it. Odds against Kazmir returning: 29-1.

I think the Indians have a better chance of signing either Smith or Albers. Both men are righties, and both pitched effectively for the Indians in 2013, each going 63 innings with decent ERA+ numbers and other metrics. Smith is said to be seeking a three-year contract, whereas the Indians, always leery of handing out long-term contracts to pitchers, want to sign him to two years instead. While it’s not essential that the Indians sign at least one of these four men, I have the feeling that GM Chris Antonetti would like to be able to avoid losing all four pitchers for 2014. It wouldn’t amaze me to see the Indians offer Smith a three-year contract after all, or perhaps a two-year contract with a mutual player/club option. Odds against Smith returning: 5-1. Against Albers returning: 4-1.

All we can do at this point is wait and see what happens next.


  • Wyatt says:

    Wow, I didn’t expect that. Pitching was the strength they really relied on this past season and what they claimed they would use to build on in the future. The loss of Jimenez, Kazmir, and Smith is going to throw those plans completely out the door.

  • Mike Fumic says:

    Jimenez I could see not signing at a huge price. Not bringing back Kazmir would be a mistake

  • Peter says:

    Alright, I’m going to ask what nobody else is asking? Did Jimenez turn it around this year because it was a contract year?

    He seems like an alright guy, but man did he suck for 2 years, and then he gets hot in the last 3 months before his contract is up. What’s up with that? Call me skeptical! You get why I’m asking, right? If he did work to get it right, as many have done in the past, because of his contract, then it’s a serious character flaw and I don’t want him because he will return to the suckage we saw earlier when the money is in the bank.

    Or, he worked threw some serious issues and has it under control and is ready for the big show again.

    Well, I had a beer and have the answer. I’m a tribe fan so if we sign him, it is clearly the former and we will waste limited funds we don’t have on him.

    If we don’t sign him, he is HOF material and we look stupid. It’s very clear to me.

  • medfest says:

    The only one of these four pitchers who has a chance to return to the Tribe is Kazmir.

    Jimenez is too big of a risk for a multi-year deal,and I definitely think pitching for a contract was a factor in his unexpected season.Take the draft pick and let somebody else pay a ticking time bomb more than 33 million over the next 3 years.In spring training we were debating whether he would be worth paying 8 million for his last(now voided) year.

    Smith will get too many solid offers for too much money,the Tribe didn’t want to pay their closer 7-8 million,you think they’ll pay a set up guy 6-7million a year?

    Albers is decent bullpen cannon fodder,that has value,but not to the Indians.

    Kazmir is a wild card.Being left handed and being down right dominant in several starts might garner him a surprising contract.The Tribe has to hope that doesn’t happen.But with Marlon Byrd already getting 16 million over two years(at age 36!),I’m not too hopeful.

  • Zeke says:

    How come every time someone talks about the Indians losing all this pitching they forget that they a getting Josh Tomlin back? People seem to forget that he was lights out before he got hurt. I think he is a viable option to replace Kazmir if he walks. I don’t believe that the rotation is going to be down next year at all even if the tribe losses those two guys in the rotation. The lose of smith would be huge though.

    • Cale says:

      While “lights out” might not be the right phrase (he’s never finished a season with an ERA under 4), I do agree with thought. Tomlin would be a sufficient 5th starter that can eat up innings and keep you in the game.