Ubaldo Jimenez Rumors


Poll: Four-Year, $50MM Starting Pitcher Investments

It is not often that things line up quite so cleanly as this, but after a roller-coaster offseason, three of the market's top starters all landed quite similar overall guarantees. It would be too much, perhaps, to argue that the market valued them identically; after all, each signed at different points in an always-changing market, agreed to various terms that impact the overall value of their contracts, and had differing situations with regard to qualifying offers. Nevertheless, it seems fair to suggest that Ricky Nolasco, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez were each valued in rough proportion to one another. 

Yet each pitcher brings a very different set of risks and benefits to their new deals. (Player name links are to MLBTR's Free Agent profile series; deal links are to reported signing, which includes contract details.)

Ricky Nolasco (age 31; received four years, $49MM from Twins) -- Nolasco is durable and solid, having made at least 31 starts in each of the last three regular seasons while consistently maintaining a walk rate hovering just above 2.0 BB/9. While his overall results have been less than stellar, Nolasco has tended to post much better ratings by advanced metrics than ERA, and finally saw the results to match last year. Has he been unlucky, or does he just give up a lot of solid contact? Either way, Minnesota has put its money into a pitcher who has about as good a record of durability as could be hoped.

RISK: disconnect between advanced metrics and results

BENEFIT: durability

Matt Garza (age 30; received four years, $50MM from Brewers) -- Garza has been consistently above-average ... when healthy. Striking out batters consistenly in the range of about eight per nine, and holding down walks to less than three per nine since maturing as a pitcher, Garza's results are hard to argue with. (He has not ended a season with an ERA above 4.00 since his rookie year.) But a string of injuries held him to 103 2/3 innings in 2012 and 155 1/3 in 2012. If healthy, there is every reason to believe that Garza will continue to be an excellent (albeit not dominant) starter, but therein lies the rub.

RISK: health

BENEFIT: reliably above-average performance

Ubaldo Jimenez (age 30; received four years, $50MM from Orioles) -- Unlike either of the previous two hurlers, Jimenez has at times been amongst the most dominant starters in the game. He has been an unquestioned ace over complete seasons (earlier in his career, with Colorado) and parts of seasons (the second half of last year, with Cleveland). In between, however, Jimenez has posted some genuinely unsightly stat lines. While his 2011 campaign may have taken a downturn due to some bad luck, he was terrible in most respects over the entirety of 2012, as he lost both his control and his ability to register strikeouts. Like Nolasco, Jimenez has been supremely durable. But if his new club can count on at least 180 innings, of what quality will they be? Jimenez showed flashes of both good and bad last year, and it remains to be seen which side defines his tenure in Baltimore. [Note: Orioles also gave up a first-round draft choice to sign Jimenez.]

RISK: inconsistency

BENEFIT: durability, upside

---

So, MLBTR readers: putting aside the particulars of their new teams' situations, which of these three similarly-priced investments do you think was money best spent?



AL Notes: Fister Trade, Jimenez, Hardy, Correia

Dave Cameron of Fangraphs has ranked the ten best and worst transactions of the offseason. The number one spot on both lists goes to the trade that sent Doug Fister to the Nationals and returned Robbie Ray, Steve Lombardozzi, and Ian Krol to the Tigers. Cameron argues that the deal is "the most lopsided trade we've seen in years," and notes that many observers are at a loss to understand it from Detroit's perspective. While the return for Fister certainly seems light, I tried to make some sense of the swap back in December, writing that the deal was a part (albeit a questionable one) of a massive overhaul of the club's future commitments that saved as much as $150MM in down-the-line salary while maintaining most of its present on-field quality.

  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski endeavored to explain the trade from his perspective in an interesting interview with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He made clear that the team decided to deal one of its veterans for a good, young arm. "You can see that young pitching right now is very difficult to acquire," said Dombrowski. "We had a list of about 15 pitchers that we would consider in various deals. [Ray] was one of the 15. The other 14 people said no. And [the Nationals] said no at first." Nationals GM Mike Rizzo confirmed that the club was hesitant to part with Ray, even with Fister being dangled, saying that was "why the trade took 2 1/2 weeks to consummate."
  • Dombrowski rejected the claims made by other executives that they had not known of Fister's availability, saying instead that he encountered a hesitant market. "That couldn't be further from the truth," he said. "We had our list of around 15 guys. We went to every one of those clubs: 'Would you trade this guy? Would you trade that guy?' And none of them would trade one." When the deal started to take shape, Dombrowski said he decided to grab Ray while he could. "We thought: Do we make this deal now, which we like? Or do we wait and see what else becomes available? But then does Washington do something else? Does [the trade] end up not taking place?" As I wrote at the time, the timing of things seemed to play an important role in how the deal came together; indeed, the Tigers went on to sign Joe Nathan the very next day, adding a two-year commitment at slightly more than Fister figures to earn in that stretch.
  • The groundwork for the Orioles' signing of Ubaldo Jimenez was laid at the Winter Meetings when the starter and his agent met with new pitching coach Dave Wallace, executive VP Dan Duquette, and others, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun"Right there, I knew," said Jimenez. "They're really humble, really down-to-earth guys, and I knew it was going to be special to be in this organization. RIght there, I was like, 'Pretty much, this is the team I want to be with.' It's going to be a big part of my future for me and my family. The city is great and they have a competitive team. Those guys in the clubhouse look like they are great guys." Jimenez backed up his expressions of commitment by revealing that he would move his whole family -- including his parents and sister -- to Baltimore, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
  • Though he is heartened by the club's moves and remains happy in Baltimore, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy says that he has heard nothing about an extension beyond what has been reported publicly, writes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore"Even after FanFest, I thought something was going to happen right away because I think you guys were asking Dan [Duquette]," said Hardy. "He came up to me and said something about how we're going to start talking extension, but really nothing has happened. I don't know. Maybe they were waiting to do some of these other moves or something." Hardy, who could test the market next year, says that he is still interested in a new deal: "If they come to me with an extension, we'll definitely be open with trying to work that out."
  • Meanwhile, righty Kevin Correia of the Twins says that he would be interested in continuing to pitch in Minnesota when his two-year, $10MM deal expires after the season, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. But, said Correia, he has not had any talks about an extension to date. "They had a pretty busy offseason with the pitching staff, so we haven't really talked," he said. "I enjoy playing here. We talked to the effect of how my experience was here, how I enjoyed the team and the coaching staff and everything, but that's about as far as we've gotten." Correia, 33, does not offer much upside but delivered solid results for the Twins last year, logging 185 1/3 innings of 4.18 ERA ball. Of course, as Berardino notes, with three new starters under contract and several prospect arms expected to reach the bigs in short order, the veteran may not fit into the club's plans after this year and could become a mid-season trade piece.



Orioles Sign Ubaldo Jimenez

FRIDAY: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets the year-to-year breakdown of Jimenez's deal: he will earn $11.25MM in 2014, $12.25MM in 2015, $13MM in 2016 and $13.5MM in 2017. Each year of the contract contains $2.25MM in deferred salary without interest. Sherman also reports that Jimenez's pact contains $3.2MM worth of incentives, as he can earn $400K each season for starting 32 games and also for pitching 200 innings (Twitter links).

WEDNESDAY: The Orioles have officially announced the signing of Jimenez.

MONDAY: Looking to add talent at the top of their rotation, the Orioles have agreed to sign free agent starter Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50MM deal, pending a physical. Some of those dollars will be deferred, but Jimenez nevertheless becomes Baltimore's most notable free agent addition in recent memory.

Jimenez

The 30-year-old Jimenez, a client of Relativity Baseball, brings substantial upside along with a somewhat rocky history of production. As MLBTR's Steve Adams detailed in his profile of Jimenez before the start of the off-season, the durable righty has at times been amongst the most valuable starters in the game.

Earlier in his career, Jimenez was one of few pitchers to turn in dominant campaigns while throwing half of his starts in Coors Field, putting up 3.47 and 2.88 ERA seasons for the Rockies in 2009-10. Jimenez struck out 9.6 batters per nine innings last year, the best mark of his career, while tossing 182 2/3 innings of 3.30 ball in his last campaign with the Indians.

Just one year prior, however, Jimenez netted just a 5.40 ERA for Cleveland. He has never managed to limit walks, allowing 4.1 free passes per nine over his career. And Jimenez's stellar early-career ground-ball induction skills have waned of late. Last year, he checked in with a 43.5% ground ball rate, which fell below league average.

To some extent, Jimenez's 2013 season encapsulates his career: at times frustrating, at times immaculate. He sported a 4.56 ERA in the first half of the year, only to turn it on with a sparkling 1.82 mark over the back end. Regardless of performance, Jimenez comes with a strong record of injury-free innings, having notched at least 31 starts and 176 2/3 innings in each of the last six seasons. And though he no longer brings upper-90s heat, Jimenez has been equally successful against batters of both sides, allowing a career .689 OPS to righties and .709 mark to lefties. 

For Baltimore, Jimenez represents the second addition to a rotation corps that contained several question marks. The former Indian will slot into of a rotation that projects to include Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, and Miguel Gonzalez. The team also recently inked Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon to a three-year, $5.75MM deal that would escalate significantly in value if he serves as a starter. He could battle with Bud Norris and a host of others for the fifth slot. 

Jimenez represents the largest commitment by the O's to date in the 2013-14 free agent period. And for a club that has never promised a free agent starter more than three years, Jimenez perhaps becomes the team's most significant-ever free agent pitching acquisition. Indeed, his $50MM promise lands amongst the highest free agent contracts ever handed out by the club, which previously promised Miguel Tejada $72MM and Albert Belle $65MM on the open market, and the most substantial of recent years. (The club has promised big dollars through extensions to outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.)

Because Jimenez turned down a qualifying offer, the Orioles will part with their first-round choice (17th overall) in the upcoming 2014 amateur draft in order to add him to their roster. Meanwhile, the Indians officially pick up a compensation pick in the sandwich round as compensation.

Adams had predicted a three-year deal for Jimenez before the season, noting that a fourth year was possible. Promising an additional year became necessary, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, due to interest from multiple other AL East clubs, including the Blue Jays. The Red Sox also had interest, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter). Though neither of those clubs made offers, according to Olney, it appears that their presence in talks contributed to the final price tag.

With Jimenez off of the market, only one free agent pitcher (Ervin Santana) remains among the top fifty free agents (per MLBTR's Tim Dierkes). Among the teams still potentially interested in a starter, most have been linked to Jimenez and Santana, leaving the latter to satisfy any desire for a top-tier option. The Blue Jays and Mariners have, perhaps, been the most heavily rumored clubs to be dabbling in this portion of the market, though numerous others are said to have some level of interest.

With his four-year, $50MM deal, Jimenez joins several other arms to score deals of like magnitude. As MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker shows, Matt Garza (four years, $50MM) and Ricky Nolasco (four years, $49MM) both landed at that level this year, while Edwin Jackson (four years, $52MM) did the same one year ago. It would seem fair to characterize all of these starters as having their share of benefits and drawbacks, though it could be that Jimenez offers the greatest upside of any.

MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko first reported that the sides were nearing agreement on a four-year deal. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the agreement (via Twitter). The total money and deferred payment were first reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). 

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



AL East Notes: Jimenez, Machado, Ortiz, Sox, Soriano

Ubaldo Jimenez was introduced today by the Orioles, saying that he is looking forward to putting the "nightmare" of past inconsistency in the rearview mirror. Executive VP Dan Duqutte said that Jimenez was attractive to Baltimore because "he's been a proven, solid, dependable pitcher," and explained that he saw potential for new pitching coach Dave Wallace to help Jimenez maintain his form from the second half of last year. MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli has a full transcript from the presser.

Here's more from the AL East:

  • Orioles young star Manny Machado is scheduled for a key visit with his doctor in the middle of March which could determine when he'll be ready to suit up, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). If he is cleared to play at that point, the hope is that Machado would be prepared for game action within the first few weeks of the season.
  • Machado tells ESPN's Jayson Stark that being ready for Opening Day is last on his list of priorities: "That’s at the bottom of my list. It’s not even on my list, to be honest," says Machado. Instead, Machado and the Orioles are focused on making sure he's 100 percent when he takes the field. Says Machado: "When I’m ready, I’m going to be ready. And everybody’s going to know it. And that’s when I’m going to be out there with the team, whether it’s Opening Day or sometime in April."
  • Red Sox DH David Ortiz and agent Fern Cuza met with club oficials today -- including representatives from the ownership group -- to discuss his contract status, reports WEEI.com's Alex Speier
  • Ortiz has not been shy about discussing his contract situation publicly, and the team has likewise consistently indicated a willingness to talk. Speier breaks things down from a baseball perspective, arguing that Ortiz has in fact expressed a willingness to give his team a legitimate discount. The notion of adding another year to his current contract at about the same annual rate ($15MM) is valuable, says Speier, because it keeps him off of an open market that could well pay him more. Though he is aging, Ortiz's bat has shown little sign of slowing, and he would surely draw real interest from a power-sapped free agent market. Even if the slugger takes a step back, says Speier, Boston's payroll situation makes the downside scenario a reasonable risk to bear.
  • As for those payroll considerations, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said yesterday that the luxury tax may not be a firm line for the club going forward, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. Though the club has "learned from" its experiences with major deals in the past, Henry said that the team is always looking for ways to leverage its "big-revenue" capabilities. Though he was somewhat unclear as to his reasoning, Henry said that "there's some reason to believe that [staying under the luxury threshold] may not be as important as we thought a couple years ago."
  • Yankees outfielder Alfonso Soriano is considering retiring after the season, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. The 38-year-old said it will all come down to whether he feels healthy, but acknowledged the possibility that he could join teammate Derek Jeter in making this his last go-round. Soriano, who produced a .255/.302/.489 line with 34 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 626 plate appearances last year, will be playing out the final year of the eight-year, $136MM deal he signed with the Cubs back in November of 2006.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.



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 has joined the Red Sox (rather than the Yankees) prior to the 2004 season.  The Deal, the latest instalment 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.









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