Ubaldo Jimenez and Oriole Agree to Four-Year $50-Million Deal
And just like that, it’s time for the Indians to start coming up with a plan B. Ubaldo Jimenez will not be returning to Cleveland for the 2014 season. Fox Sports is reporting that the Baltimore Orioles and the hard throwing right-hander have agreed to a four-year $50-million deal that they hope will be enough to propel the Orioles to the top of the AL East standings. Full details of the deal have not been released, some outlets are reporting four-years and $48-million, and it is pending a physical by Jimenez.
While the Indians lost one of their key cogs from 2013 with this deal, there is a silver lining. Because the Indians made Jimenez a $14-million qualifying offer, they will receive a compensatory draft pick from the Orioles in exchange. That pick is slated to be the 17th overall pick in this June’s amateur draft. For a team that is still struggling to rebuild their farm system after a decade-plus of poor drafting, they will gladly take any draft pick they can get their hands on.
For the Orioles, the signing of Ubaldo Jimenez gives them the front line starter they so desperately felt they needed. It was the one key piece, along with a reliable closer, that they felt really held them back over the past two seasons. Prior to the signing of Jimenez, the Orioles were expected to break camp with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, and Kevin Gausman. They also recently signed right-handed Korean import Suk-min Yoon.
Jimenez immediately takes pressure off of the rest of the Orioles rotation and even allows Gausman, one of the team’s top prospects, the opportunity to continue to refine his game at the triple-A level. Whether or not that is enough to put the Orioles over the hump and compete with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays in the AL East is a different question all together.
While Jimenez closed out the 2013 campaign on a high note, 1.82 ERA, 10.7 SO/9 and 3.7 SO/BB in the second half, he was a complete and total disaster for the better part of two seasons. This is the same pitcher that labored his way through a disastrous 2012 season that saw him post a record of 9-17 with an ERA of 5.40, an ERA+ of 72 and 4.8 BB/9. It wasn’t until Mickey Callaway got his hands on Jimenez and refined his pitching process that Jimenez began to turn things around.
Whether or not Ubaldo Jimenez can continue to perform at a $50-million dollar level over the nexr four years without the aid of Callaway is quite the gamble. It was the type of gamble the Indians were unwilling to take. The Orioles, however, knew they would never catch up in the arms race of the AL East without making such a gamble.
For the Indians, the loss of Ubaldo Jimenez will be a bitter pill to swallow, but not something they can’t overcome. As stated, they will receive a first round draft pick as compensation. Also, with Jimenez officially off the board and no chance of coming back, they can now turn their attention towards other available free agent pitching options is they so choose. They also have several arms within the organization that are ready to step up and fill in.
Just know that while many fans will hate the idea of losing another front line starter to a team in the AL East, the Orioles have probably done the Indians a favor. Jimenez just earned $50-million dollars guaranteed of over the next four seasons based on his performance over the final two months of the season and an inflated market for starting pitching. That figure completely neglects the two-plus seasons that preceded it and could turn out to be one of the worst contracts in baseball should Jimenez fail to live up to expectations.