Ubaldo Jimenez Rumors

Reactions To The Ubaldo Jimenez Agreement

After a quiet offseason for the Orioles, the team pounced in mid-February, officially announcing a three-year deal for righty Suk-min Yoon yesterday but more significantly (from a financial standpoint, at least) agreeing to a four-year, $50MM contract with Ubaldo Jimenez. Baltimore surrendered the No. 17 pick in this year's draft to issue the largest contract for a pitcher in franchise history. Some early reactions and fallout in the wake of the Jimenez pact…

  • Deep down, the Indians never really wanted Jimenez back in Cleveland, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. While the team admired Jimenez's work ethic and felt he was a positive presence in the clubhouse, they didn't feel his wild performance swings were worth the trouble. Hoynes points out that it's a bonus that Baltimore landed Jimenez, because their forfeiture of the No. 17 pick allows Cleveland to move from No. 22 overall to the No. 21 overall pick in the first round.
  • ESPN's Keith Law writes that despite the associated risk, the contract is a win for the Orioles (ESPN Insider required and recommended). He feels the $12.5MM annual value can end up being a bargain for a pitcher that at times shows three pitches which grade as a 60 or better on the 20-80 scale. Additionally, it allows Kevin Gausman to work on the consistency of his slider in the minors, which he will need in order to thrive as a Major League starter.
  • Law's colleague Buster Olney reports that the Orioles upped their offer from three to four years under the belief that the Red Sox and Blue Jays were both aggressively pursuing Jimenez. However, his sources indicate that neither club actually made an offer (Insider required). Olney points out some risks, such as Jimenez's struggles in limiting the running game, and he also opines that the O's should be more willing to lose further draft picks by pursuing Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales and perhaps even Stephen Drew.
  • MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli runs down what the Jimenez signing means for other pitchers in the organization. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez are locks (health-permitting), she writes, but Yoon, Bud Norris and out-of-options Zach Britton will battle for the fifth slot. Gausman is almost certainly ticketed for the minors, she writes. Ghiroli also reports that manager Buck Showalter said he prefers an everyday DH and that the best deals often happen in late spring, suggesting that someone such as Morales could be a fit after all.
  • The Jimenez signing should help to discredit the feeling that Orioles owner Peter Angelos is not willing to spend to win, writes the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck.
  • The Sun's Eduardo A. Encina writes that the Orioles' recent international signings made it slightly easier for executive vice president Dan Duquette to surrender the No. 17 pick, as he felt the club added some additional high-upside talent with those moves.
  • Jimenez turned his career around by relying less on his fastball and more on his offspeed stuff — most notably his splitter, writes Eno Sarris of Fangraphs. Jimenez entered the 2013 season having thrown his split just three percent of the time over his career but threw it 14 percent of the time in 2013 with a 17 percent swing-and-miss rate, which helped offset his diminished velocity. If that trend continues, the $12.5MM annual value can be a bargain, Sarris concludes.
  • The Orioles and Jimenez have been working on this deal for a long time, but things came together quickly yesterday when Baltimore conceded and added a fourth year, writes MASNsport.com's Roch Kubatko.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that with Jimenez and Matt Garza each landing four-year, $50MM contracts, Ervin Santana's agents now have a great deal of pressure in trying to match that figure. Sherman also spoke to an executive who called Jimenez the "ultimate crapshoot," noting that Baltimore could be getting a star or a bust. That same exec wondered if Jimenez will struggle facing more patient lineups in the AL East (Twitter links).

Orioles Nearing Deal With Ubaldo Jimenez

The Orioles are working to finalize a deal with free agent starter Ubaldo Jimenez, reports MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. The contract under consideration is believed to be for four years and $48MM.

Jimenez, 30, is one of the premier remaining available free agents. He checked in at 11th on the top fifty free agent list of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes. 

If he does land at the four-year, $48MM level, it would represent a nice payday at this late stage of the market. As MLBTR's Steve Adams argued in his breakdown of Jimenez's free agent case, the big righty looked good for a three-year, $39MM deal but could plausibly command another guaranteed year that would bring him into the range of Edwin Jackson's four-year, $52MM contract. In Adams' analysis, in spite of his up-and-down recent track record, Jimenez carries the upside of a top-of-the-rotation starter but also has proven a durable innings-eater. 

For the Orioles, the addition of Jimenez would represent a massive shift in the off-season's complexion. Recent signee Suk-min Yoon and reliever Ryan Webb are the only players that the O's have inked to multi-year deals thus far, and both players received guarantees of less than $6MM.

Baltimore has been tied to numberous players to date, and nearly landed reliever Grant Balfour on a two-year, $15MM pact, but has yet to pull the trigger on a major acquisition. Jimenez certainly would represent that, and would be expected to constitute a major upgrade to a rotation that current sports several question marks. According to Kubatko, the Orioles have also participated in recent talks with fellow free agent starter Ervin Santana

If Jimenez does indeed sign with the Orioles, his new employer would be required to sacrifice the 17th overall choice in the 2014 amateur draft. Meanwhile, the Indians — Jimenez's former club — would add a sandwich-round compensation pick.


AL Central Notes: Scherzer, Shields, Indians

Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer reiterates that he won't negotiate an extension once the season starts, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press writes. "This can be a major distraction," Scherzer says. "I understand I have a chance to secure my future here with the team. I want that to happen. But at the same time, I’m not going to drag negotiations out into the season." Scherzer would not say whether he and his agent, Scott Boras, are currently negotiating a deal with the Tigers. Here are more notes from the AL Central.

  • James Shields of the Royals is heading into his last season before what should be a hefty free-agent payday, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports. "I’d definitely say he’s a $20 million (per season) guy," says one AL executive. Along with Scherzer and Homer Bailey, Shields will headline the 2014-2015 class of starting pitching. The Royals aren't ruling out extending Shields, but it will be tricky for them to retain him. "If they keep him, it’ll be a bit of a revelation over there," says the executive.
  • After a quiet offseason, the Indians seem to be hoping the team can take a step forward with newcomer David Murphy and with better performances from returning players like Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Michael BournPaul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Hoynes also notes that the Indians have not had contact with Ubaldo Jimenez's agent since last month.


Mariners Trying To Add Starting Pitcher

Reports yesterday indicated that the Mariners have placed their talks with outfielder Nelson Cruz on hold, and this morning, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that they're now trying to add another starting pitcher either via trade or free agency. Seattle has touched base with both Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez but is surveying the market in order to find the best fit (Twitter links). Rosenthal adds that it's unclear how the pursuit of a starter will impact their involvement with Cruz, but it's fair to wonder if the team could afford both Cruz and one of Santana/Jimenez at this stage of the offseason.

While the Mariners have been connected to starters for much of the offseason, it's no surprise to hear those rumors fire back up again in the wake of a finger injury that will cost Hisashi Iwakuma at least the next four to six weeks. The 32-year-old Iwakuma followed up a strong rookie campaign with an explosive sophomore season that saw him finish third in the AL Cy Young voting — five spots higher than his teammate and co-ace, Felix Hernandez. Iwakuma turned in a stellar 2.66 ERA with a 48.7 percent ground-ball rate, 7.6 K/9 and just 1.7 BB/9 in 219 2/3 innings for Seattle last season.

The Orioles and Blue Jays are also in the mix to add a starting pitcher at this juncture of the offseason, and each has been connected to both Santana and Jimenez. The Orioles did agree to terms with Korean right-hander Suk-Min Yoon on a three-year deal yesterday, but the small $5.575MM guarantee on that pact shouldn't preclude them from pursuing additional arms, if they feel the price is right.

Should Seattle look to the next tier of remaining starters, Chris Capuano could be available on a one-year deal after a pair of solid seasons that saw him post a 3.91 ERA in 304 innings with the Dodgers. Of course, the trade market offers numerous options as well, although at this point it seems too late for the Mariners to cash in on their previous interest in David Price.


AL East Links: A-Rod, Jeter, Drew, Morales, Orioles

Perhaps the most intriguing “what if?” scenario in recent baseball history is what if Alex Rodriguez had joined the Red Sox (rather than the Yankees) prior to the 2004 season.  The Deal, the latest episode of ESPN’s “30 For 30 Shorts” series, explores the near-trade that would’ve sent Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Brandon McCarthy from the Rangers to the Red Sox in exchange for Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra and Jon Lester.  A-Rod even agreed to restructure his contract and take less money to make the deal work, though this was what eventually scuttled the trade, as the MLBPA wouldn’t allow the agreement due to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.  Only a few weeks later, Texas instead traded Rodriguez to the Yankees and the rest is history.

Here’s the latest in a very newsworthy day from around the AL East…

  • Derek Jeter‘s impending retirement underscores the Yankees‘ lack of shortstop depth, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch writes, as it seems that Jeter’s eventual replacement isn’t currently on New York’s roster.  The Yankees could sign one of the quality shortstops available in next winter’s free agent class, Hoch notes, or Stephen Drew exists as a current option that could be signed to play second or third for a year and then take over at short in 2015.
  • Scott Boras, Drew’s agent, has recently been looking to get his client an opt-out clause after the first year of a new deal.  While some see Boras’ demands as a longshot, Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello notes that the opt-out could fit into the Yankees‘ plans, making Drew an even more obvious upgrade for the club’s infield.
  • The Red Sox haven’t offered Drew a contract for longer than one year, John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports (via Twitter).  Drew would like at least a one-year contract and an option, a source tells Tomase.
  • The Orioles continue to be in contact with Kendrys Morales‘ representatives and are still interested in the free agent slugger, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • It seems as if the Orioles prefer Ervin Santana to Ubaldo Jimenez, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes, as he has heard more tying the O’s to the former free agent hurler than he has the latter.  “I know the Orioles have talked to his people, but I didn’t get a sense that he was atop their list,” Connolly says.  There were whispers earlier this week that the O’s were upping their pursuit of Santana or Jimenez.  In the same piece, Connolly answers a number of Orioles-related questions from fans on Twitter.

Indians Notes: Bourn, Tomlin, Masterson, Kipnis, Jimenez

One year ago today, the Indians plucked Michael Bourn off of the free agent market with a four-year, $48MM deal that includes a fifth-year vesting option. The now-31-year-old center fielder had languished on the market, hampered in part by being tied to draft-pick compensation, and ended up with a deal that fell shy of expectations. But Bourn's 2013 season ultimately came up somewhat short as well: missing about 30 games due to injury, Bourn put up a .263/.316/.360 line in 575 plate appearances. He swiped 23 bags, but was caught 12 times attempting a steal, and his often-stellar defense ratings fell towards average. In the end, Bourn was worth only 2.4 rWAR and 2.0 fWAR, his weakest tallies since emerging in 2009. The Cleveland faithful will hope that a bounceback 2014 begins to turn the contract back in the club's favor. Meanwhile, for the remaining free agents that have turned down qualifying offers this time around, Bourn's situation at least shows that a sizeable contract can still be had as camps begin to open.

Here's more out of Cleveland:

  • It has been a busy arbitration season for the Indians, who still have two unresolved cases even after winning a hearing against Vinnie Pestano and agreeing to an extension with Michael Brantley to avoid another. One of those — the case with righty Josh Tomlin — will be going to a hearing on Friday, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The sides are separated by less than $200K ($975K vs. $800K), so the stakes tell much more for the player than the team.
  • The other remaining arbitration situation involves key starter Justin Masterson, who filed at $11.8MM against a team counter of $8.05MM. As Hoynes reports, Masterson says he will be open to considering long-term extension talks after his 2014 salary is arrived upon. "We'll talk, we'll listen, we'll see," said Masterson, who is set to qualify for free agency next year. "To want to be a part of [the Indians' core] is there, but there is always the temptation in the back of your head as to what comes next."
  • Another possible extension candidate in Cleveland is star second baseman Jason Kipnis, who is coming off of a huge 2013 campaign and will qualify for arbitration next year. He tells MLB.com's Jordan Bastian that he would be interested in discussing an extension, indicating that previous talks had taken place and could restart once the above-noted situations are tied up. "Why would I not listen?" Kipnis said. "Yeah, I'm open to hearing what they have to say or what they have to offer. It'd be stupid not to. I know they've got some arbitration cases to finish right now. I think once everything's done with that and the spring starts flowing along, we'll start talking again."
  • A re-signing of outgoing Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez will not occur unless "something extreme" takes place, reports Hoynes. Given the value that Cleveland has put on the pick it stands to gain if Jimenez signs elsewhere, as well as the pick it would sacrifice to sign fellow free agent starter Ervin Santana, the club seems unwilling at this point to ink either pitcher.

Orioles Unlikely To Sign Burnett; Phillies Still In Running

MONDAY, 10:17pm: Burnett is in discussions with multiple teams, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

9:41pm: The Phillies are "very much still in the running" to land Burnett, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Though there is no indication that the sides are nearing a deal, says Zolecki, the likelihood has increased since Friday.

FRIDAY: The market for A.J. Burnett could be taking further shape, as Friday reports have indicated that a pair of previously listed suitors aren't likely landing spots. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes that the Phillies aren't likely to add Burnett at this point in the offseason, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that things "don't look good" for the Orioles either.

Salisbury spoke with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and was told the following:

"I don’t suspect we’ll be doing anything. I think we’ve got what we’ve got. I suspect we’ll go into the season with what we’ve got – or at least spring training with what we’ve got. We’re always looking, always trolling. I know there are guys out there, but I don’t suspect us having anything major coming through."

In his tweet, Kubatko does note that while the Burnett-to-Baltimore scenario isn't completely dead, the sense is that his prerference is to pitch in the National League rather than return to the American League. Kubatko adds that the Orioles are still in the mix on Bronson Arroyo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Suk-Min Yoon, however.

Recent reports stated that the D-Backs would have interest in Burnett, but they don't feel he'd want to pitch for a West Coast club. It sounds then, like Burnett's preference is to pitch for a Senior Circuit club on or near the East coast (he is a Maryland resident), which would bode well for the Pirates, especially if the Phillies are truly out of the mix. The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore speculated earlier in the week that the Nationals could make a surprise push for Burnett, and I'd agree that the pairing would make sense, though there's been nothing concrete to connect the two sides to this point.


AL Central Notes: Indians, Jimenez, Masterson, Royals

After defeating reliever Vinnie Pestano in an arbitration hearing recently, Cleveland still has three more players scheduled to face a panel. One of them — outfielder Michael Brantley – is reportedly close to a long-term deal. Pestano discussed his feelings upon going through the process, as MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports. The reliever said he was surprised mostly by the team's use of statements he'd made to the press against him. "You're being honest and accountable and saying the right things and being there," Pestano said, "and then later you find your own words in the paper, and somebody is trying to use your words against you to drive your value down. Whether that played a big role in the decision, I don't know." Though not necessarily expressing ill-will towards the team, Pestano did indicate that the hearing would have a future impact. "I definitely think it'll affect how I see things going forward," said Pestano. "I don't really know if I can be as honest and up-front anymore. I've got three more years of arbitration left. I don't know what they'll pick to use against me next year or two years from now."

Here's more from the Indians and an American League Central competitor:

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Indians haven't been in touch with Ubaldo Jimenez or his agents at Relativity Baseball in "weeks." Cleveland is, however, said to have inquired on fellow righty Ervin Santana, who (like Jimenez) will require the sacrifice of a draft choice if he is signed by a new club.
  • MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports (via Twitter) that Indians hurler Justin Masterson is willing to discuss an extension in Spring Training and may even consider talking with the team during the season, if necessary. Last we checked in, extension talks had been shelved while the sides focused on avoiding an arbitration hearing that remains scheduled for February 20th. 
  • Royals GM Dayton Moore says that the club's payroll will land around $90MM for the coming season, tweets Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. That tab falls beyond the club's "break-even point," says Moore, and thus constitutes a "gamble."

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Bowden’s Latest: Free Agency, Scherzer, Drew, Lobaton

Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio spoke with multiple agents and executives over the weekend and got contradictory takes on the reasons for so many top free agents remaining unsigned (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Agents told Bowden that they (and the MLBPA) feel that the heightened media coverage resulting from social networking has damaged players' market values. Reports from media members about how teams value players and whether or not they've made offers to players could be violations of the CBA, those parties told Bowden. Meanwhile, executives said to Bowden that the market is simply full of players with baggage (draft pick compensation, PED usage, inconsistent performance) and added that agents entered the offseason with unnatural expectations for their clients.

Here are just some of the highlights from a jam-packed column from the former Nationals and Reds GM…

  • Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are the two most likely candidates from next year's crop of free agent starting pitchers to sign an extension, Bowden writes. Despite the fact that Scherzer is a Scott Boras client (Boras prefers his clients to test the open market), Scherzer seems to want to remain loyal to the Tigers. However, Bowden notes that an extension would still need to be somewhere close to Scherzer's market value, which Bowden pegs at a whopping $196MM over seven years.
  • The Red Sox have made a two-year offer to Stephen Drew, one source told Bowden. The value of that reported offer is unclear, as is the date on which it was made.
  • The Nationals have discussed Jose Lobaton trades with the Rays as they look to add a backup catcher for Wilson Ramos. Lobaton figures to be expendable for the Rays, as they project to have a strong defensive tandem of Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina behind the dish. Shedding Lobaton's $950K salary would seem to be more beneficial to the tight-budgeted Rays than most teams, particularly if they don't have a roster spot for him.
  • The Dodgers are pushing for an infielder over another starting pitcher and hope to have a deal done within the next 48 hours. Los Angeles isn't likely to bid on any of the remaining free agent starters unless they're willing to take a short-term deal, as Dan Haren did to play near his hometown.
  • Kendrys Morales is the most likely free agent to be this year's version of Kyle Lohse, writes Bowden. He notes that the Orioles — who still have about $15MM to spend — and Mariners remain interested in the switch-hitting Scott Boras client. Both are still in on Nelson Cruz as well. MLBTR readers seem to agree with the Morales/Lohse comparison; in the poll I conducted earlier this morning asking which Top 50 free agent would be the next to sign, he drew the fewest votes.
  • The Royals and Indians are both highly unlikely to be able to lure back their respective free agent pitchers, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. The Blue Jays are a likely landing spot for both pitchers.

Quick Hits: Santana, Jimenez, Dodgers, White Sox

Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio said on MLBN's Inside Pitch show today that the Blue Jays expect to land one of Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez (Twitter link from MLB Network Radio). While Toronto has yet to make a formal offer to either right-hander, the team has had discussions with each former AL Central hurler's camp. More from around the league…

  • Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that the Dodgers' lack of infield depth could be troubling when the season gets underway. Of particular concern is Cuban signee Alexander Guerrero, who could struggle with the transition from shortstop to second base. The Dodgers have little in the way of alternatives, with Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon and light-hitting Miguel Rojas as the primary in-house candidates. Saxon also wonders how many games Hanley Ramirez can stay healthy for, and asks if the Dodgers are relying too heavily on Juan Uribe.
  • JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago looks at the savvy scouting of Joe Siers and Daraka Shaheed of the White Sox – the two scouts who pushed the team to pluck lefty Jose Quintana off the scrap heap following his release from the Yankees organization. General manager Rick Hahn wasn't shy about his praise for Quintana, who he feels has exceeded expectations and become a strong No. 2 starter behind Chris Sale"He doesn't have to improve in my book," Hahn said. "If he does, fantastic. He certainly has the aptitude and athleticism and now the knowledge of the league that it's not unrealistic to expect the improvement. …if he's this guy for the next several years we'll be very happy."
  • The Blue Jays will move waiver claim Brent Morel from third base to second base, Morel told Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (Twitter link). Toronto claimed the former White Sox top prospect off waivers earlier this year. The move isn't all that surprising given Toronto's lack of depth at the keystone.
  • Bowden writes (Insider subscription required) that Athletics GM Billy Beane and Rays GM Andrew Friedman are the GM stars of the offseason. While Yankees GM Brian Cashman spent the most money, and Rangers GM Jon Daniels made the second-most noise with acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, Bowden feels that the two small-market GMs shined above all others. In particular, he praises Beane's stockpiling of elite bullpen arms and Friedman's decision to resist the pressure to deal David Price.