The MLB offseason is about to begin, and that means the Cleveland Indians have some important decisions to make. One of the biggest choices they face is what to do with Ubaldo Jimenez. The Indians have a $5.25 million team option for Jimenez for 2013 with a $1 million buyout, and if they were to decline it Jimenez would still be under team control as an arbitration-eligible player.
In this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: Should the Indians exercise Ubaldo Jimenez’ option for 2013? (And, if not, should they non-tender him?) Joining us this week are guest contributors Nino Colla from The Tribe Daily and Ronnie Tellalian from Did The Tribe Win Last Night?.
Nino Colla (The Tribe Daily): Should they? Wow I don’t really know. It sounds like they will because Terry Francona mentioned Ubaldo Jimenez by name on Monday and if he wasn’t in their plans, he probably wouldn’t be mentioned. I think they almost have to at this point. You gave up so much to get him and to cut him loose like that would put him out in play for someone else. Add in to the fact that his option is a club friendly deal, it wouldn’t burden your payroll and the Indians have few other options to plug into the rotation and you’re kinda forced. Not that being forced is a bad thing, but it seems to be the logical move, despite Ubaldo’s bad 2012 and infuriating results.
Will they? Most likely. Should they? I kind of have to believe that they should, just because they have no real reason not to.
Ronnie Tellalian (Did The Tribe Win Last Night?): Declining his option [and non-tendering him] makes sense for the Indians. They have young arms in Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco in the wings. There are also a number of free agent options like Joe Blanton, Shawn Marcum, Paul Maholm, and Chris Young.
His diminished velocity is a concern, but the quality and frequency of his pitches thrown is an even greater concern. In his great 2010 season, Jimenez threw his changeup 13% of the time. That pitch yielded his highest swing-and-miss rate (18%) and groundball rate (10%). In 2012, he threw his changeup only 5% of the time, and it still yielded his second highest swing-and-miss rate of any of his other pitches (13%). His changeup was also the only pitch, of the six he now throws, that did not give up a homerun. Hitters batted .125 with a .205 slugging percentage against the change, by far the best of any of his pitches.
The Indians need to cut ties with the righty. Hopefully whoever picks him up makes adjustments to his pitch selection and Jimenez can get his career back on track.
Evan Vogel: The Indians should definitely pick up the option on Ubaldo Jimenez, even if the only reason is to trade him. Sure, Jimenez was awful in 2012 and really hasn’t done anything since the first half of the 2010 season, however, he still has the stuff to be a solid mid-rotation starter for any team. The problem is that the Indians were counting on him to win 20 games, and you just can’t count on any pitcher to do such a thing whose last name isn’t Verlander.
You can’t look at the option on Jimenez at $5.75 million, you have to look at it as $4.75 million, because that is what the Tribe would be paying him after the $1 million buyout. They paid Derek Lowe $5 million in 2012, so paying Jimenez $4.75 million to be mediocre, or even below-average, at the age of 29 in the 2013 season is a fantastic investment.
He may be bad again and he will probably not gain a whole lot from a pitching coach, but he has dominated before and has even shown glimpses of his abilities in between seven straight miserable starts. That alone makes him worth a roster spot.
Lewie Pollis: Odd as it may sound, I’d say the decision should rest with Terry Francona and his coaching staff. If they think they can fix Jimenez, the Indians should keep him. The 2010 Ubaldo is long gone, but a return to a middle-of-the-rotation caliber of pitching probably isn’t out of the question. If Francona & Co. don’t think they can get him there, there’s no point in keeping him around.
Ultimately, I think picking up Jimenez’ option would be worth it unless the Indians can negotiate a better deal before they have to decide. Given that it would cost only $4.25 million (the buyout turns $1 million of his 2013 salary into sunk cost), it’s probably worth the risk to give him another chance.
Steve Kinsella: The Indians should simply pick up Jimenez’s 2013 option and hope that he can locate the strike zone with some velocity. As Indians fans we can certainly hope that he has a turnaround as dramatic as A.J. Burnett had with the Pirates in 2012. We can hope that the Indians are in the midst of the impossible season, part two and Jimenez is playing a large role. At the very least, we can hope that Jimenez is having a resurgence and his trade value returns to a high level.
Ed Carroll: Ideally, I’d like the Indians to decline Jimenez’s option and re-sign him to a more incentive-laden, possibly multi-year deal, much like Steve outlined. I’m not sure how realistic that is, and if that isn’t a realistic option, I think the Indians should pick up Jimenez’s option, assuming they haven’t added more than two legit starting pitchers.
I know he was awful last year and has been on a decline. And this is more of a gut feeling than anything, but I think that given how he was acquired, the fact that he isn’t even 30 yet, and the option being fairly low for what he could be capable of, you have to take a risk on it. Give Francona and his staff a year to try. Easy to say since it’s not my money, but for $5.25 million, I’m willing to gamble. Roll the dice one more time, Antonetti.
Brian Heise: Yes, they should pick up his option for 2013 because honestly—what do they have to lose? The Indians certainly won’t gain anything by not doing it and there is no one waiting in the wings that has a better potential upside than Jimenez so why not exercise his option? And if by some miracle the Indians coaching staff can solve his mechanical issues, get his head screwed on straight, and return him to the form that made him such a hot commodity then it will have heen worth the time and wait. After all, Jimenez is a pitcher who possesses the potential and arsenal of pitches to he an ace. If nothing else, perhaps they can reestablish some of his lost value and use him in the trade market to rebuild the team for the future.