Jimenez No Longer an Ace, Maybe No Longer an Option?
After a disappointing 2012 Cleveland Indians season the organization is at a crossroads to decide how to progress with the organization, not just for the 2013 season but several seasons to come. Decisions involve ownerships, the front office, managerial and coaching decisions and the players. For the month of October, we’ll look at how the Indians ended up in their current predicament, but most importantly, Where Do the Indians Go From Here. Today we analyze one of the three players who have team options for next season. The Indians must decide to pick up their options within three days of the end of the World Series.
By Craig Gifford
Ubaldo Jimenez‘s 2012 season of misery ended prematurely. Perhaps the Indians should consider ending his stay in Cleveland early, as well.
Jimenez was unable to make his final two starts of the season. The former ace had a right ankle sprain and was shut down for what would have been his last two outings. He finished the year with a disappointing 9-17 record and bloated 5.55 ERA. The 17 losses were the most in the majors.
Following an almost-as-forgettable 2011 campaign, Jimenez just does not seem like he will ever regain the form that made him an All-Star and Cy Young Award candidate with the Colorado Rockies in 2010.
The Indians hold a $5.75 million club option on Jimenez for 2013. However, it is hard to say a guy who lost almost twice as many games as he won is worth even that modest amount, by Major League Baseball standards.
Of course, to decline the option for next season, general manager Chris Antonetti and the rest of the organization would have to swallow a lot of pride. It was just last July, the 2011 trade deadline, that the Tribe made a mega deal to acquire Jimenez. Cleveland shipped top pitching prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz off to Colorado for a pitcher the team hoped would be no worse than a number two starter.
Despite a 6-9 record and 4.46 ERA at the time of the trade, the Indians hoped a change of scenery and departure from Colorado’s hitter’s paradise would help Jimenez revert to his 2010 form, or close to it. The exact opposite happened. Jimenez actually put up worse numbers in Cleveland. Following the swap, he was 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA for the Tribe. Jimenez has never come close to looking like the ace the Indians thought they were getting.
Going into this season, the Tribe brass believed it could tinker with Jimenez’s mechanics to get him out of his funk. He had flashes in May of possibly righting the ship, but then veered off again. Nothing has worked to get Jimenez back to even a middle-of-the-road type pitcher.
At this point, Jimenez is not a top-two starter. In fact, most teams would probably look at Jimenez as a back-of-the-rotation guy, competing for a job going into next spring. As we have learned, the Indians are not most teams. Pride is not the only thing that may speak to management in picking up Jimenez’s option. Financial restraints and lack of quality starting pitching depth could also play into one of this winter’s bigger decisions.
Cleveland’s best two starters lately have been rookies Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber. They’ve shown signs of being keepers at the major league level. However, they are not arms you build division championships around, at least not yet. Then there’s ace – at least in name – Justin Masterson. He has struggled almost as much as Jimenez this year. However, he had a solid 2011 and is younger than Jimenez, so his struggles can be a little more forgivable. Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff are other potential starters. Both have had chances in the big leagues, with mixed results.
Along the same lines as Jimenez, the Indians have to make a decision on Roberto Hernandez. The team has $6 million option on that former ace. Between identity fraud and injury, Hernandez made three starts this year, going 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA. It would be hard for the Indians to justify bringing him back at that price tag. Jimenez is actually a better deal.
With the lack of strong options on hand and the cost Cleveland paid to acquire him, it is not hard to envision the Tribe keeping Jimenez around and spending one more season trying to right the ship.
That would be the wrong move. Cleveland needs to admit to making a mistake in trading for a guy who may have nothing left. It may be a little easier for management to swallow if it looks at the numbers for White and Pomeranz this season. Both were 2-9 and carried ERAs north of 5.00. As of now, the trade is not too regrettable in what was given up. It is time to cut ties. The $5.75 million is too much money for a guy who has been arguably the worst pitcher in the majors this season.
Figure, $6 million should be enough to land a pitcher who is at least decent. That money would not land an ace, however a solid number three starter could probably be had for that kind of cash. Right now, it is hard to call Jimenez a number thee starter. Cleveland is far better searching elsewhere to fix its starting rotation.
In the end, Jimenez is probably one of the better bets of the players with 2013 options to be in an Indians’ uniform come spring training. Not wise, but a solemn truth for a franchise short on money and other truly viable options.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images