• Free Agent Pitcher Profile: Ubaldo Jimenez

    The Indians made a bold move at the trade deadline in 2011, trading away multiple top prospects to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez, a 27-year-old right-hander who was viewed at the time as one of the premier pitching talents in the National League. An imposing presence with a mid-90s fastball, Jimenez had steadily improved in the seasons leading up to 2010, when he went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA to finish third in the Cy Young voting.

    Jimenez wasn't been the same guy over the first half of the 2011 season in Colorado, posting a 4.46 ERA with significantly diminished velocity, but Cleveland still jumped at the opportunity to add a potential ace in his physical prime. As it turned out, the righty's troubles only worsened after the trade. He put up a 5.10 ERA in 11 starts down the stretch while the Indians rapidly faded from contention, and then trudged through a tumultuous 2012 campaign in which he lost 17 games with a 5.40 ERA, adding a career-high 4.8 BB/9 and a career-low 7.3 K/9. In two years, Jimenez had gone from superstar to liability.

    He bounced back in a major way this season, and the timing could hardly have been better for him. In his final year under contract, Jimenez went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA, pushing his K-rate all the way back up 9.6 while showing dramatically improved control. Although his velocity dropped for a third consecutive year, his secondary stuff was as good as ever, and in the second half Jimenez looked every bit the part of a No. 1 starter, posting a 1.82 ERA and 100/27 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .606 OPS. He notched double-digit strikeouts in four of his last eight starts.

    Why Does He Fit?

    His performance this season, especially toward the end, is awfully tantalizing. That's a guy that could legitimately be called an ace -- something the Twins have mostly lacked since Johan Santana's departure. He also doesn't turn 30 until January, so in theory you're not looking at any imminent decline.

    While he's had his ups and downs in terms of performance and there are questions about the condition of his arm based on draining gas, he's been able to take the mound every five days throughout his career up to this point. Jimenez has made 31-plus starts in each of his six seasons since becoming a full-time big-leaguer. Only six pitchers have made more starts since 2008.

    Why Doesn't He Fit?

    There are no two ways about it: Jimenez is a massive risk. Even though he was able to succeed with a 91 MPH fastball this year, his steadily declining velocity is clearly a red flag, and he's still only a year removed from being one of the worst pitchers in the league.

    Considering his age, his recent performance and the state of the market, Jimenez will surely require a sizable long-term deal. The Twins might have to go above and beyond what others are offering in order to lure him to a current non-contender. As enticing as his upside is, the downside may simply be too great to justify an unprecedented financial commitment. Beyond the money, signing Jimenez would also probably cost the Twins a high draft pick, as Cleveland seems likely to make a qualifying offer.

    What Will He Cost?

    The Offseason Handbook pegs his estimated contract at four years and $64 million, which coincidentally is the same guess we made on Tim Lincecum, who was profiled here on Tuesday. Lincecum ended up inking an extension with the Giants later that day at two years and $35 million. What does that tell us about Jimenez, who is similar to Lincecum in that his velocity has declined as he's approached 30? Compared to The Freak, Jimenez would seem to offer a lower ceiling and deeper floor, but he's also coming off a much better year. Sixty-four million still looks like a reasonable guess to me.

    Would you pay that for a 30-year-old who was an ace this season, but mostly a disaster in the two years preceding?
    This article was originally published in blog: Free Agent Pitcher Profile: Ubaldo Jimenez started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 47 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I'd be willing to give up a second round pick for a top pitcher, as TR said, a guy with longevity. I just don't know that Ubaldo is a guy that I would do that for. As is pointed out above, he's not one of THOSE guys.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Who is more likely to be good, Jimenez, or a 2nd round pick? I mean, we pick apart the free agents like crazy, and seem to forget how few 2nd rounders even make the majors, let alone contribute something meaningful.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Jimenez has front of the rotation stuff and is exactly the sort the Twins should target IMHO, he just needs to command it.
    1. MichiganTwins's Avatar
      MichiganTwins -
      What if we get two guys with qualifying offers? Can we lose more than 1 pick i.e. next year's pick?
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      I like Jimenez way more than Hughes even if it costs a 2nd rnd pick. Way more. Hughes will never be a top of the rotation guy. Jimenez might.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      It isn't just losing the pick. It is also losing a lot of draft cap dollars and flexibility.

      No one can foresee how they might need those dollars next year.

      It could be someone dropping to them and needing the flexibility to go over slot with their first pick and make it up on the second. It could be going under slot with the first pick and taking someone dropping to the second round. The Royals did something like this to sign their supplemental pick Manaea.

      In the new draft context, you give up flexibility when you give up the pick. Teams were reluctant to do that last winter.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      3 years, $45 million.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      It isn't just losing the pick. It is also losing a lot of draft cap dollars and flexibility.

      No one can foresee how they might need those dollars next year.

      It could be someone dropping to them and needing the flexibility to go over slot with their first pick and make it up on the second. It could be going under slot with the first pick and taking someone dropping to the second round. The Royals did something like this to sign their supplemental pick Manaea.

      In the new draft context, you give up flexibility when you give up the pick. Teams were reluctant to do that last winter.
      I believe Mikewantswins already answered your concern:

      Who is more likely to be good, Jimenez, or a 2nd round pick? I mean, we pick apart the free agents like crazy, and seem to forget how few 2nd rounders even make the majors, let alone contribute something meaningful.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I would, without a moment's pause, give up the second round pick for Jimenez.
    1. raindog's Avatar
      raindog -
      I was against the idea of signing him at first, because of the draft pick and the very good chance he regresses. But Jesus...they have to take a chance at some point. There aren't a lot of good options out there.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      I believe Mikewantswins already answered your concern:
      Not at all...

      While I agree with his statement about a second round pick, he only speaks to the second round pick as if having it is independent of all other picks.

      The concern is about having fewer dollars in the draft. That impacts the first pick.

      The context of the draft has changed.

      In the old system, Manaea doesn't make it to the Royals. He is drafted by a larger market team that doesn't have a draft cap to worry about. In the new system, a team to could go under slot with their first pick in order to take a second pick falling due to their salary demands.

      It could go the other direction also. If they lose those dollars, the Twins might have to pass on a player in the first round who they might have to go over slot. They won't have the flexibility to do so.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34 View Post
      Two?! Really?! I'm not even understanding why we lost one to sign out own guy...


      Really hated that trade the day it was announced. And now, in retrospect, I should have an even more visceral reaction. A horrible, horrible, horrible trade.
      That was after the trade. He was a class A (old agreement) free agent which meant that the Twins would get 2 picks if another team signed him...
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Not at all...

      While I agree with his statement about a second round pick, he only speaks to the second round pick as if having it is independent of all other picks.

      The concern is about having fewer dollars in the draft. That impacts the first pick.

      The context of the draft has changed.

      In the old system, Manaea doesn't make it to the Royals. He is drafted by a larger market team that doesn't have a draft cap to worry about. In the new system, a team to could go under slot with their first pick in order to take a second pick falling due to their salary demands.

      It could go the other direction also. If they lose those dollars, the Twins might have to pass on a player in the first round who they might have to go over slot. They won't have the flexibility to do so.
      Wouldn't this scenario make more sense with a team having a lower first round pick or a supplemental pick.... or is there a Manaea that is going to drop to #5 in the Second Round that you are aware of? If the Twins draft some lower echelon-talent like Hunter Dozier with their #5 pick, a lot of folks around here are going to pretty disappointed.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34 View Post
      It took Tampa 6 years of good drafts (fruitful drafts) to get a good thing going. Twins need 2 more strong drafts to get a team in 2-3 years that will start cranking out .500 seasons or better. Producing at least a few players each year afterwards will be required to put them over the top and also stay competing for longer than 6 years - when free agency starts to decimate those teams after service time is fulfilled.
      This is kind of my point. It took 6 years for Tampa to turn it around. If the Twins can get a very good starter for nothing more than money and a prospect that is unlikely to turn out then they are on the road to being a good team faster. And there is nothing about this that means they won't continue to build the farm system.

      Here's a thread where many people are prepared to trade someone as good as Dozier/Rosario plus another prospect for a pitcher similar to Jimenez. I would strongly prefer to give up a 2nd draft pick than an actual really good prospect.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      That was after the trade. He was a class A (old agreement) free agent which meant that the Twins would get 2 picks if another team signed him...

      Capps wasn't a Type-A, he was a modified Type-B, only a single sandwich pick between the first two rounds.
    1. zchrz's Avatar
      zchrz -
      This seems to be the kind of contract they should pursue. It won't take 5+ years so even if its an overpay it can be written off before the new crop of in house products needs to be paid. It would not be that prohibitive there is a lot of cap room and it shouldn't be significantly more than Morneau's contract was. They need to get some talent in here, I think it would be stupid to bring the prospects up to cut their teeth on another 90+ loss team. They don't have to hand out 100+ million dollar contracts left and right but they are going to have to gamble on free agency some. Good free agents generally get their markets value and it takes money to play, if they don't gamble they won't win anything. If they bet nothing and sign cheap, known, "reliable", low risk commodities (Corriea) or just go dumpster diving for rehabs (Pelfry) then the staff will continue to be what it is.
    1. Zephrin's Avatar
      Zephrin -
      Ubaldo is not my guy - especially at the prices being discussed. He is going to get paid for 2 ace-like 1/2 seasons, the first half of 2010 and the second half of 2013. (Remember 2010? Dude was 15-1 at the all-star break. He only went 4-7 the rest of the way. The first half of 2013 wasn't eye-opening either.)

      Bold can be a good thing, but for me Ubaldo is more risky than bold at 4/$64. Something similar to The Freak's 2/$35 would bother me less.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      I think Ubaldo will be looking for his last long large contract. He has to see this as buy high. I think he will take the best offer and it can be the Twins.

      The risk with Ubaldo is that he is either very good or very bad. When he is bad, he can't be on the staff of a contending team. I don't think he is going to age into an innings eating league savvy veteran. If they sign him for 4, how much good Ubaldo do they get?
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      This is kind of my point. It took 6 years for Tampa to turn it around. If the Twins can get a very good starter for nothing more than money and a prospect that is unlikely to turn out then they are on the road to being a good team faster. And there is nothing about this that means they won't continue to build the farm system.

      Here's a thread where many people are prepared to trade someone as good as Dozier/Rosario plus another prospect for a pitcher similar to Jimenez. I would strongly prefer to give up a 2nd draft pick than an actual really good prospect.
      I can follow that logic.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34 View Post
      I can follow that logic.
      I can too. I am confused by those wanting to trade prospects for certain pitchers when the equivalent pitchers are available for money that is readily available.
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