Ubaldo Jimenez presumably has all of his bags packed and ready to go for spring training. The one thing still missing is his flight itinerary.
With about a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective spring training facilities, Jimenez still has not found a home in free agency this offseason.
In fact, the market seems to have diminished for the right-handed pitcher over the past few weeks. At the beginning of the offseason, Jimenez and his representatives, SFX, were aiming for a five year deal worth up to $75-80 million, similar to the one given to Anibal Sanchez by the Tigers last offseason, but now he is looking at a deal more in the three year $35-40 million range. A big reason for the shrinking of Jimenez's market is the draft compensation that Jimenez has attached to him after the Indians extended him the qualifying offer and he declined it.
If the price tag continues to bottom out, the Indians will consider signing him; whether it is done on a one or multi-year deal is hard to speculate. Right now, most reports have centered around Toronto and Baltimore as likely destination spots for Jimenez. If the Indians were to enter back into the mix, they would be a favorite since they are the only team which would not have to part with draft compensation to sign him.
However, this is not an article focusing on will the club sign Jimenez but rather should they.
(courtesy of twinsdaily.com)
Here are three reasons why the Indians should not sign Jimenez:
First, signing Jimenez to a one year deal would be pushing the organization's budget to the breaking point. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Indians currently have $80.6 million committed to the players currently under contract for the 2014 season. When you factor in the arbitration eligible players, that dollar figure goes higher. Let's assume, for aesthetical purposes, that each arbitration eligible player settles for the midpoint amount between both asking prices: Justin Masterson- $9.9 million, Michael Brantley- $3.3 million, Vinnie Pestano- $1.2 million, Josh Tomlin- $0.8 million. This would put the player budget around $95 million for the season. Adding Jimenez for anything higher than $5 million would see the payroll soar to over $100 million, in the same "ballpark" as the mighty St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals.
Second, Jimenez's future performance (and compensation) is very hard to predict. Yes, there is risk in projecting any players future performance. However, Jimenez is on a planet by himself. Last season, Jimenez made his 24th start on August 17th, in Oakland. He finished that night with a 4.00 ERA and averaged about 1.8 K/BB. The average AL starter threw 63.5% of pitches for strikes and he had reached or exceeded that rate in five games out of 24. Jimenez looked better than he did the season before, but he remained ever so inconsistent.
There were eight starts left. Over them, Jimenez earned a 1.66 ERA and he averaged about 7 K/BB. Two of three pitches had gone for strikes. Batters reached against him at a .270 clip, while slugging only .307. He had essentially turned the corner overnight with no real explanation of why he had done so. For GM's considering signing him to a multi-year deal, it’s about believing in a remarkable one-fourth of one full season, a fourth in which Jimenez threw a great deal more strikes even though he improved his rate of pitches in the zone by all of one percentage point.
Third, and finally, Jimenez turned 30 years old on January 22nd. Looking at similarity scores from Baseball Reference, his top two comparables through age 29 are Ben McDonald Darryl Kyle. Ben McDonald's career ended after his 29-year season with a torn rotator cuff shorty after being traded to the Indians. Kyle, on the other hand, compliled a 49-37 record between the Rockies and Cardinals despite a 4.69 ERA and an All-Star appearance at age 31. With both of these careers, we continue to see the inconsistancy that has plagued Jimenez his entire career. This is consistant with the early projection models we have seen: Steamer, Oliver and PECOTA all have high standard deviations for Jimenez in ERA, FIP, WAR and VORP in 2014.
Simply put, he is too much of a risky venture to offer any multi-year deal to.