Ubaldo Jimenez Appears All But Gone
For weeks now, fans have been holding out hope that the Indians might shore up the holes in their starting rotation by re-signing free agent starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Well, we can all stop hoping because it isn’t going to happen.
According to a report by Cleveland Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes, it would “take something extreme” to make re-signing Jimenez a reality. In fact, not only have the financial limitations of the team made it next to impossible to meet Jimenez’s demands, there has been little to no interaction between the team and his representation after a spectacular 2013 season. That’s always a good sign. Hoynes states:
“There has been no communication between the Indians and Jimenez’s agent, Diego Bentz, since the end of January. What’s more, the Indians value the draft pick they’ll receive for Jimenez if another team signs him.
If they did re-sign Jimenez, the draft pick would have to figure into how much they’d pay Jimenez. The Indians will receive a pick between the first and second rounds of the June draft if another team signs Jimenez.”
What this demonstrates is a shift in how the Indians plan to build their team moving forward. Signing big name players and spending large amounts of money may work for large market teams, but the Indians have come to understand a different reality. In order to build a consistent winner, they need to focus on the draft, their minor league system, and team friendly contracts. Under no circumstances, whether it be a one year deal or a multi-year deal, no offer made to Ubaldo Jimenez will be seen as team friendly.
That’s why the draft pick compensation associated with Jimenez is so crucial. While a draft pick does come with inherent risks (not all draft picks work out), it provides the Indians with another player to help build up their minor league system with multiple years of team control on a much more team friendly contract. In the mid to late 90’s we would have scoffed at that notion. In 2014, with a better understanding of value and team construction, we should be applauding the decision.
It is also why signing another top-level starting pitcher from a different organization is out of the question. Take for instance Ervin Santana. While he may be an equally, if not more attractive option than Jimenez, he too comes with draft pick compensation attached. In that instance, the Indians would be forced to forfeit a high level pick to the Royals, an intra-division rival, in order to compensate for his loss.
“Ervin Santana, another free agent, is in the same spot as Jimenez. He’s a pitcher with a draft pick compensation tied to him. The Indians have talked to his agents from time to time this winter, but it would cost them their No.1 pick if they signed him.
At the moment, they appear unwilling to do that.”
Again, it’s a simple case of understanding your limitations in making a decision. The Indians know that they are not building a sustainable winner by throwing away draft picks for high-priced contracts. Rather, they are better off either developing the prospects that result from those picks or using them as trade chips in order to acquire the pieces they need. Yes, this comes with its own risks, but it is a lot easier to get out from under the contract of a middling prospect than it is a guaranteed major league contract with multiple years and eight figures attached to it.
It’s not fun and it’s not nearly as exciting as signing a Robinson Cano or a Masahiro Tanaka, Not everyone gets pleasure and joy out of trolling draft boards and prospect websites. I know that. You know that. Even the Indians probably know that. However, we’ve seen time and time again how winning the free agent battle between November and February in no way guarantees a team of any type of success, just ask the Angels and check back with the Mariners after this season.
But if it works out, there could be a lot more fun summers to look forward to than sad and depressing one’s. Keep the faith people. Keep the faith.