Ubaldo Jiménez and Cleveland Indians in Holding Pattern


Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Ubaldo Jiménez likely won’t be a Cleveland Indian next year. It’s not that the Indians don’t want to have him on the ball club; it’s that they can’t afford him. Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports recently tweeted:

Jiménez opted out of the final year of his contract. He’ll be 30 on January 22nd. He probably wants to strike while the iron is hot, and why not? He’s coming off a solid season.

Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors had this to say:

"“Many are quick to glance at Jiménez’s splits and state that he had a dominant second half. While that’s true – he had a 1.82 ERA after the All-Star break – Jiménez’s rebound began much earlier than that. After allowing 19 earned runs in his first 17 innings, Jiménez pitched to a 2.61 ERA with a 179-to-69 K/BB ratio from April 29 through season’s end – a span of 28 starts.”"

There’s the problem for the Indians. Jiménez played well down the stretch, and the realistic situation is that ownership holds back the payroll. Roman playwright Plautus once said, “You must spend money to make money.” In context, that translates to, “If you put a quality product on the field, fans will buy tickets… Yes, eventually even the oft-spurned Tribe fans.” Unfortunately, not all major league teams feel that way.

The ones who do, however, are targeting Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. He’s the one that’s going to set the market for free agent pitchers. Tanaka is currently in the U.S. on a tour across the country meeting with interested teams. He has until January 24th to complete a deal. Once that roadblock is maneuvered, RHP Matt Garza is expected to find a home. He’s the top free agent not linked to draft-pick compensation, unlike other starting pitchers.

According to Jason Catania at Bleacher Report:

"“Free-agent right-handers Ubaldo Jiménez and Ervin Santana, both of whom had better seasons than Garza, may not be quite so lucky… When a player’s contract is up, his club can choose to present him with an offer that is a one-year contract at a price equivalent to the top 125 salaries in the sport. For context, that amount was $13.3 million last offseason and jumped to $14.1 million this year. Essentially, any player who rejects the qualifying offer is hedging his bets that he can sign a multiyear deal as a free agent for either a higher average annual value or a higher overall value. Once a player turns down the offer, if he inks with another team, that team then loses its first-round draft choice (or second-rounder, if the pick is within the first 10), while his former club gets a compensation pick after Round 1.”"

And there’s the problem for Jiménez. The Indians made him a qualifying offer. While in the long run it’s not likely to be that big of a deal, it definitely shrinks the pool of teams looking to add a player, specifically those small- and mid-market ones that rely on the draft. Ervin Santana is in the same situation as Jiménez, but it’s unlikely to impact his market as much because he’s considered the better option.

Regardless, the one-year offer is a good deal for the Indians. Jiménez had two half-seasons, maybe a year and a half total of really good pitching, but who is to say the second half of last year wasn’t a fluke? We’re not so sure. Maybe the Indians aren’t either and prefer to take the short-term chance to minimize risk.

One thing is for sure though. We’re all waiting for the chips to fall where they may, but most aren’t expecting them to land anywhere near the Horseshoe.