Ever since no-hitting the Atlanta Braves on April 17th, 2010, Ubaldo Jimenez has been a household name for just about any regular baseball fan as one of the better pitchers in the game. He’s hit the open market for the first time in his career this winter and he’s looking to cash in on the opportunity, with the Yankees has a possible suitor.
In Sunday’s Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo spoke with a few MLB general manager that said they believe the Yankees will end up signing Jimenez even if they land prized Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who the Yankees have not had any meaningful contact with yet because his agent, Casey Close, is on vacation, says Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
“He had an excellent second half, has great stuff, and he has the type of personality that would fit New York,” one GM told Cafardo. “He doesn’t let things get to him. He’s good at shrugging off things and turning the page.”
What those GMs had to say was quite surprising — mostly because the Yankees have not shown much interest, if any, in Jimenez this winter, along with the other two big-ticket free-agent pitchers, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza. Signing him and Tanaka would seem like a stretch, but it isn’t impossible.
At this point, getting under the $189 million luxury-tax threshold is very unlikely, even with a season-long suspension of Alex Rodriguez. They’re already close to the self imposed mark as it is, and they still have to add one more starter, likely a third baseman, and at least one bullpen arm. Adding all of those pieces to be competitive as well as staying under $189 million almost can’t happen.
Realistically, signing either one of the Tanaka/Jimenez combo would put the Yankees over the threshold, making the last two years limited spending and mediocre baseball a waste.
But the real question here is about whether Jimenez would even be worth signing for the Yankees.
After no-hitter in 2010, Jimenez broke out as one of the game’s best starters, and was even named the All-Star Game starter for the National League on his way to a career-best 19-8 record and 2.88 ERA. But things only went south from there.
He went 10-13 in 2011 with both the Colorado Rockies and the Cleveland Indians, to whom Jimenez was dealt to at the trading deadline that season. He was a guy that had all of the potential to be great, but wasn’t able to put together the control on his pitches and constant mechanics to stay on track.
The second half of the 2013 season is where he really put it all together to bring him into free-agency, posting a 1.82 ERA over his final 13 starts of the season, making up for his poor first half numbers. Of course, justifying any type of contract he receives — and MLBTradeRumors.com predicted he would get a three-year, $39 million deal — would be based on if he can continue to put up numbers similar to those over the next few years.
Now, even though a few GMs around baseball think Jimenez would be a fit with the Yankees, here is why signing him would be a risk:
The home run numbers might not translate well in Yankee Stadium. Outside of the Bronx, only Coors Field in Colorado is more hitter-friendly than the House that George Built, and Jimenez limited home runs surprisingly while with the Rockies, never giving up more than 13 in a full season in Colorado.
However, those numbers have gone up over the past couple of seasons, pitching in a larger ballpark in Progressive Field — giving up 25 in 2012 and 16 last season, 13 in the first half before he fixed his mechanical issues.
We all know what Yankee Stadium can do to a pitcher’s home run totals, just ask Phil Hughes, who was practically run out of town and to the spacious Target Field in Minnesota because of too many home runs coupled with a couple years of poor pitching.
I’m not completely saying that Jimenez can’t pitch with the Yankees because of potential long ball problems, but as long as he could keep the numbers down like he did at Coors Field, then he’d be worth the investment, assuming he can also pitch well for an entire season’s time.
We won’t, though, see much happen with Jimenez until Tanaka signs — and like I said, nothing will pick up with him until next week when he agent is back from vacation — and that could take a few weeks, possibly leaving Jimenez on the market into February, right before teams start meeting for Spring Training.
Sure, major league GMs think Jimenez will wind up with the Yankees, and even though that’s not impossible, I just don’t see it happening. But then again, I didn’t see the Seattle Mariners pulling off a deal with Robinson Cano.