In 2010 Ubaldo Jimenez made his name in the baseball world with a breakout season. Even more surprising, he was a dominant pitcher on the often pitching-troubled Colorado Rockies.
He was an All-Star, finishing third in NL Cy Young voting, and even picked up a few MVP votes.
The four-year, $10 million (before his options were exercised) deal the Rockies signed their young pitcher to before the start of the 2009 season looked brilliant. Colorado had found the ace who could lead them back to the World Series.
When 2011 began, Jimenez started slow, allowing at least four earned runs in five of his first nine starts after doing so just eight times the previous season. By the trade deadline he was a Cleveland Indian.
In the 2011 and 2012 seasons the former ace had a 5.03 ERA, a falling strikeout rate, and was handing out more walks than earlier in his young career. Instead of taking more steps forward, he was regressing.
2013 started out as more of the same. However, since the All-Star Break, Jimenez has been a different pitcher: 1.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, and a 3.35 K/BB ratio. Opposing batters are hitting just .221/.290/.331 against him in the second half. The Indians are just 5-5 in his second-half starts, but by allowing just 16 earned runs in 12 games, Jimenez has given his team a chance to win when he’s taken the mound.
Since the All-Star Break, Jimenez has been a different pitcher: 1.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, and a 3.35 K/BB ratio.
The $8 million team option for 2014 looked like a complicated calculation entering this year but now looks like it might be off the table entirely – for different reasons.
As a term of his contract, Ubaldo’s right to void the 2014 team option came into play when he was traded. Rather than make the Indians decide if spending $8 million for one year is a better choice than the $1 million buyout, he can simply elect to be a free agent.
On a one-year deal for $14 million deal, this winter’s qualifying offer level, Jimenez might be welcomed back to Cleveland without hesitation. Should he be seeking more, given that the club added Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher to long-term deals last winter, the price may just be too high.
By rediscovering his ability to strike people out, Jimenez has returned to providing top-of-the-rotation production. There’s a good chance that he is the Indians’ game-one starter in the playoffs.
In the end, the Indians have fared quite well. The prospects sent to Colorado, a package lead by Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, have not fared as well as the player they were traded for. Pomeranz and White have combined for just 57 major league starts in parts of three seasons with a combined ERA over 5.00.
After winning 90 games in 2007 and 92 in 2009, the Rockies have had just one winning season, 2010, in the last four years. With Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez still signed for the long-term, the Rockies can build around their stars. They could even reach out to their former star in the offseason to orchestrate a reunion.