To say the trade the Cleveland Indians made for starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, nearly two years ago, has worked out well for the Tribe would be quite the overstatement. These days, it would also be an overstatement to call the deal a horrible move.
Just about a year ago, a horrible move is what most Tribe fans were calling the July 30, 2011 acquisition. General manager Chris Antonetti traded promising young starters Alex White and Drew Pomeranz to the Rockies for a struggling, former National League All Star in Jimenez.
Last season, for a second straight year, the Indians faded in the season’s second half after a promising start. Jimenez was perhaps the biggest culprit, unable to do much of any winning after the All-Star break. He finished 9-17 5.40 ERA. Fans clamored for a young arm to come from the minors to take Jimenez’s spot. Unfortunately, the Tribe’s two most promising prospects had been deal a year before.
What a difference less than a year makes. Pomeranz and White, both now 24, each struggled in their first go-round at the Major League level. The young hurlers had matching 2-9 records with the Rockies in 2012. Pomeranz actually had the better ERA of the two at 4.93. White was at 5.51. Neither showed the promise they held while in the Cleveland minor league system.
This year, things have gotten even worse for pitchers traded for Jimenez. White was traded to the Astros in December. Late in spring training, White began to experience elbow soreness. That led to the dreaded Tommy John surgery and he is likely lost until some time next year.
Pomeranz is still in the Rockies organization, but has spent the whole year, so far, at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He has not fared too well. Though he has a nice 7-1 record, Pomeranz has an ERA of 4.75, which has to be disappointing to Colorado management.
At this point, it is a throw-in to the trade that has looked the best for Colorado. Part of the deal was Matt McBride. The outfielder and first baseman is actually showing to have a big bat at Colorado Springs this year. He is hitting a cool .322 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI. The problem for him is he has not produced much in his limited time in the big leagues. At 28, there’s a chance McBride has mastered baseball’s lower levels to only be overmatched in the big show.
Meanwhile, Jimenez actually has been decent for the Tribe this season, Granted, he is nowhere near his 2010 form, however the 29-year-old right hander has kept Cleveland in a lot more games than he has not. No longer do you see his name penciled in for a start and think it to be an automatic loss.
At 5-4, with a 4.79 ERA, Jimenez is not making anyone have visions C.C. Sabathia or Cliff Lee, both former Tribe Cy Youn Award winners. However, he is not the Jiminez of last year or the second half of 2011 when things really unraveled for him. The former ace has started 13 games so far. Only five of those outings have resembled the train wrecks so commonly seen a season ago. Three of those five came in April.
Jimenez’s year began with a brilliant, six-inning, one earned run effort on Apr. 3 against Toronto. He followed that with three consecutive bat games that began inspiring the questions of whether or not it was time for the Tribe to cut him loose. His ERA was at 10.06. Since, it has been two bad performances and seven in which he pitched well enough for Cleveland to win. That ERA has been cut down by more than half.
If the Indians continue to get the Jimenez they have gotten since late April, they likely will not complain. Starting pitching, especially quality starting pitching, is hard to come by. To have pitcher who will give you a chance to win the majority of the time is certainly a good thing.
Jimenez is not an ace, nor will he likely ever be again. However, he is looking like a good No. 3 or 4 starter. That, alone, is more than can be said for where he was last year. When last season came to a close, some wondered if Jimenez even belonged on a Major League pitching staff at all. Now a case can be made that only Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister have been the only Tribe starters more consistent than Jimenez.
It will take some time, but if Jimenez can continue to be good three out of four games, fans may even start to embrace the hurler with the herky-jerky windup. It will also help if Pomeranz and White continue to struggle.
Jimenez certainly has not been what the Indians had hoped for when the trade was made. Now almost two years later, unbelievably, it is Cleveland that has so far come out looking the better for it.
Poto: Chuck Crow/Plain Dealer