Letting Go of Ubaldo

February 20, 2014

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.


  • Thomas says:

    While I agree with your points on draft picks and Ubaldo’s inconsistency, I think it is quite a stretch to say the Indians have “depth” in their rotation. Is there room for optimism? Sure. However, we lost almost 350 innings of quality work when Kazmir and Ubaldo left. You might have said we had “depth” last year. I’m afraid all we have now is a question mark in the #5 spot.

    • The Doctor says:

      agreed, we don’t have much depth at all, unless one’s lone qualifier for depth is sheer volume. but in fairness, ubaldo and kazmir were huge question marks last year – kazmir wasn’t even a lock to make the team.

  • Mike says:

    I think we will all agree that last year at this time, we didn’t have rotation depth, but a lot of mediocre to long shot options. It ended up turning out pretty good for us. This year we have even less, although Kluber and McCallister are more of a known now than they were last year. Its anyones guess as to how this turns out.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    I do not believe the Indians would have forfeited their own first round draft pick by retaining Jimenez. The only thing they would have “lost” is the compensatory pick. The rest of your points are valid. The innings per start statistic, even when Ubaldo was pitching well, made him a liability. It will be interesting to see how he fares against the patient lineups of the AL East. He could easily lead the league in walks and pitches per inning.

    • Sean Porter says:

      That’s a good point Steve – he may struggle to get through five innings vs the Red Sox and Yankees.

      Factor in pitching at Fenway and Yankee Stadium, two parks not conducive to flyball pitchers (see: Phil Hughes), and pitching half his games at Camden Yards, with the most inviting left field stands in the majors. (Left center is 364 feet, with a 7 foot fence, and many speculate that the 364′ marker is a lie)

  • Let’s not be fooled. Letting go of Ubaldo was no great thought out strategy by this organization. Their strategy for bringing in players to improve the team is based on only one objective…NOT SPENDING MONEY. That is what this organization is all about. We have players who have success; who deserve to get paid and they let them go and bring in cheap castoffs,utility types and injured players to try to get lucky and replace the quality players we lost. Until until we have new ownership, one that is committed to winning; we will be stuck in this frustration of watching other teams improve while we just flounder year after year.

    • Sean Porter says:

      So let us get this straight: The Indians should have paid Ubaldo $50 million GUARANTEED dollars because he had perhaps FOUR very good months with the Tribe out of the roughly 15 months he pitched on the team?

      You do remember that Ubaldo Jimenez was statistically the worst starting pitcher in the American League in 2012, right?

      You may have some very valid points about the Dolans, but using this situation with Ubaldo Jimenez is stretching the point, in my opinion.

    • DG says:

      You must have a short memory to have forgotten 2011 and 2012, and even his brutal start to 2013. You can’t give a 4 year deal to a guy that had an absolutely terrible 1.75 seasons with you just because he got hot in the second half of his contract year.

    • The Doctor says:

      there’s a difference between “NOT SPENDING MONEY” and “not spending money on a guy seeking 4 guaranteed years who’s been extremely inconsistent”, but it seems like you’re more interested in ranting about the dolans than thinking critically about what the front office does. if that’s the case, the indians.com message boards may be more your flavor.

      and hey – there’s always room on the orioles bandwagon, hahahha

  • Kyle says:

    Re-signing Ubaldo to the kind of deal Baltimore signed him to would have be ludicrous for the Indians. There is no way they should be spending the money on that kind of inconsistency. They need to focus on locking up Materson, and Kipis long term. Look at what they Braves are doing. Yes, they are doling out some money and have a slightly higher budget but they are by no means the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox of the MLB. They are signing their young talent to long term deals that will probably be under their true value in years to come. Yes, it is a little risk reward but the Braves are consistent 90 game winners. Make no mistake Joseph is partially right. Our ownership group is not that great. Our front office I really like for the most part but I wish our ownership would have the drive to win just a bit more. Signing Ubaldo however was never the right move, now or long-term

  • Bob says:

    “Re-signing Ubaldo to the kind of deal Baltimore signed him to would have be ludicrous for the Indians.” Make that ludicrous to anyone who doesn’t have deep pockets. 8 weeks of pretty good play against the likes of Minnesota, Houston et Co. does not make you a proven commodity. Making money is a part of the business and the game, yet spending foolishly is a sign of desperation. Contracts even for good players beyond 3 years is a huge gamble. Seattle will be crippled in a couple years. Dolans or whomever, Cleveland is not a large market community that can afford the risks and gambles that some others can. I have more respect for the Clevelands and Oaklands who have to earn the pennant than the New York’s whose philosophy in buy it.