Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez Trade Revisited

Derek StaudtContributor IIIApril 9, 2017

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 20:  Drew Pomeranz #13 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the San Diego Padres during an MLB game on July 20, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

A prospect is not the same as an established pitcher. I don’t like the deal.

Screw this, I’m rooting for the Giants for the rest of the season.

I just ripped up my tickets for next Saturday.

The comments above are just a sample of many angry outbursts in response to the famed Ubaldo Jimenez trade, which occurred nearly one year ago to the day. The comment forum on the Denver Post site was littered with flabbergasted Rockies fans fuming over the departure of the soft-spoken ace. The only Rockies pitcher to register a no-hitter was dealt away hardly a year after his historic achievement. The horde of prospects received for Ubaldo lessened the sting, but the dedicated fans of Coors Field were indifferent to hearing about the future.

The deadline deal was certainly unusual. The Rox salvaged value on a former All-Star rapidly losing traction in the majors. The trade partner, the Cleveland Indians, paid dearly in hopes Jimenez’s subpar season was just an aberration.

In total, four prospects were required to pry “U” away from the Mile High City. Two of them (Drew Pomeranz and Alex White) were held in particularly high regard by the baseball community. Both held spots in Baseball America’s 100 Best Prospects of 2011. It was a deal that certainly had the potential to blow up in one team’s face. Or both.

In the months that have passed, the Rockies youngsters are slowly adjusting to the unforgiving major league level and Ubaldo Jimenez is still trying straighten out his career in a suspect Cleveland rotation. The Indians fireballer occasionally shows flashes of his dominant 2010 self, but the red flags that soured the Rockies are apparent. His control is still erratic, and the 69 walks allowed are especially bothersome. In fact, Jimenez averages 5.48 walks per nine innings pitched, which is the worst among starters in all of MLB.

His trademark fastball also appears to be a weapon of the past. The sizzling 100mph heat thrown while in a Rockies uniform has cooled to the mid-90s range. And that’s on a good night.

His record is a pedestrian 8-9, with an ERA flirting with 5.00. By comparison, Jimenez sported a better ERA, WHIP and far better K/BB ratio during his final season as a Rockie. And if you can recall 2011, every outing by the Dominican was an exercise in helpless frustration. You can just imagine the lashing Jimenez is receiving from the Tribe faithful.

The remaining traces of Jimenez’s tenure in Colorado haven’t fared much better in their young careers. Alex White and Drew Pomeranz have combined for a dismal 3-11 record. Pomeranz, the top prospect in the deal, is 1-5 and spent several weeks in Triple-A polishing up on his command. The southpaw has experienced a handful of hurdles this season, spanning from minor injuries to tinkering with arm angles, but hasn’t delivered the desired results.

Alex White never found a groove in his major league stint this season and was demoted to Triple-A last month. MLBers blasted him for a .302 average, with lefties hitting .316. His ERA on the road soared past the 8.00 mark. The struggles have followed White to Colorado Springs, where he’s been touched up in the majority of his starts.

Although White is still loosely considered a prospect, his development has raised concerns. Some are beginning to question if he has the stuff to make the grade at the highest level.

The “other” pieces of the deal could very well turn out to be diamonds in the rough. Joe Gardner is tailor-made to pitch at Coors Field and makes a living off of ground-ball outs. He’s still ironing out his game and is not ready for The Show just yet, but at 24 years of age, Gardner still has some time left to make the cut. Especially considering Colorado’s carousel of pitchers, the big righty may suit up sooner than we expect.

Matt McBride was likely viewed as somewhat of a throw-in piece to the trade, but nobody in the Pacific Coast League would agree with such an assessment. McBride has flown under the radar due to the emergence of Wilin Rosario and the recent success of Josh Rutledge, but his numbers are hard to ignore.

The catcher has been a terror in Triple-A, compiling a .362 average, with a ridiculous .451 total against lefties. In fact, his average is the fourth best in the league and nearly fifty points higher than any of his teammates. The 27-year-old journeyman has never suited up for a major league team, but that time has to be nearing an end.

The bottom line of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade was the timing. Did Dan O’Dowd pick the perfect time to ship out the lanky pitcher, or did he overreact to a disappointing season? Was Jimenez slumping or tapering off for good?

At this point, O’Dowd appears to have made the right move. The top flight players acquired by Dealin’ Dan in the trade may not have paid dividends at this point, but he certainly succeeded in restocking the minor league system. In any case, Pomeranz still appears to have his best days in front of him, and may end up being the best pitcher in the entire five-player trade.

The Indians, on the other hand, are growing impatient on their costly investment. The change of scenery did not change the flaws in Jimenez’s game. He still lacks a defining killer instinct and the intensity that separates the best from the rest. Clevelanders were beginning to fear the worst months ago, with Joel Hammond of Crain’s Cleveland Business labeling Jimenez as “fragile.” Manager Manny Acta has been up front with his displeasure of Jimenez’s outings, which can only further weaken his questionable mental toughness.

Fortunately for the Indians, “U’s” contract is deemed by many circles as affordable. They hold a club option in 2013 that would pay the starter just $5.75 million. If the Tribe decided to cut its losses by means of a buyout, Jimenez would be owed only $1 million. If Cleveland hadn’t given up the farm for the reeling player, the latter would likely be a very real possibility. Until then, they’ll cling to the slim possibility of Jimenez revitalizing his career.

Give credit to Dan O’Dowd. This is one trade that has worked in Colorado’s favor.