Could Indians and Jimenez Reunite?
Mike B. | On 23, Dec 2013
It’s still not probable, but it’s possible.
Over six weeks ago Ubaldo Jimenez turned down the Indians’ qualifying offer, leaving a one year deal worth $14 million on the table and opted for free agency. At the time it seemed Jimenez was destined to turn his rebound 2013 season into a big payday. It would be a payday the Indians likely would not be a part of. When free agency began, Jimenez was rumored to be looking for a 4-year deal, worth between $54-60 million.
It’s good money if you can get it. So far, it looks like Jimenez can’t get it.
To date, a market has not really surfaced for Jimenez. Teams have inquired, but no talks have become serious. With many teams having already spent the majority of their free agent money, plus Matt Garza and Ervin Santana still available on the market, it suddenly looks like a buyers market. Teams no longer have to offer Jimenez a pie in the sky, especially when Garza and Santana are looking for their own pies. Someone among the group of free agents could be left in the cold with no monster contract to show for their outstanding season.
Worse yet for Jimenez and Santana, they have draft pick compensation stipulations hanging over their head. When Jimenez and Santana declined their qualifying offers, the Indians and Kansas City Royals, respectively, are entitled to a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round of the amateur draft in June. The team signing them will lose their highest pick in the draft available (except for picks 1-10).
A year ago Indians general manager Chris Antonetti used the new draft pick compensation rules to the team’s benefit. Since they’re pick was in the first 10 picks, they were not obligated to forfeit their first pick. Instead, when they signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, the Indians forfeited their second and third picks in the draft. Cleveland was still able to use their first pick to take the best high school player in the country, Clint Frazier.
This year, the Indians have a chance to use the new rules to their advantage in another way. If a market doesn’t materialize in the next couple weeks, the Indians could pursue a one-year deal with Jimenez. Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway knows the work put in to fix Jimenez’s mechanics better than anyone. If team’s don’t trust Jimenez’s rebound enough to invest a long term deal in him, where better for Jimenez to go than Cleveland on a short term deal.
If a market doesn’t develop in the next couple weeks, Jimenez would have to strongly consider a one-year deal from the Indians for around $12 million. For the Indians, it would stretch their budget to above $90 million, a place they are likely uncomfortable going to. It’s also likely they couldn’t make the deal without approval from ownership, but they’ve green lighted spending before. There’s no doubt the Indians are close to being a serious contender and it’s also no secret that the team could use another starting pitcher. A short term overspend could be right up Paul Dolan’s ally. Justin Masterson, Jimenez, Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber makes a very formidable front four of the rotation for 2014.
For Jimenez, if he comes out and pitches like the pitcher who was one of the best in the American League during the second half, he’ll validate his performance and may be the biggest piece on the free agent market next winter. A full season, like the three months he had in 2013, would give Jimenez a lot of bargaining power.
If he pitched well, he’d leave after 2014 and Cleveland could tender him another qualifying offer and still get draft pick compensation. If Jimenez pitched poorly, the Indians would only be indebted to him for this season. The Indians would have no long term, big contract to be saddled with. If Cleveland’s season went south for some reason, the Indians could also entertain trade offers in July.
Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. If no one is offering green on the other side, hanging out on this side could make everyone a winner.
Photo: Getty Images