Here's what'll go down in Cleveland once the season ends. The Indians will exercise Ubaldo Jimenez's $8 million club option. Jimenez will then exercise his right to decline, however, as stipulated in his contract.
It states that Jimenez could void the 2014 option if he was traded during the span of the contract, which he originally signed prior to the 2009 season while with the Rockies. The clause kicked in once he was traded to Cleveland in July 2011.
While the Indians are still undecided on whether they'll offer the 29-year-old a $14 million qualifying offer, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer—doing so would secure the team a draft choice if Jimenez departs, but they'd pay him $14 million on a one-year deal if he accepts—it's a foregone conclusion that Jimenez will become a free agent and seek a long-term deal for big money.
Despite a mostly unimpressive showing with the Tribe—he had a 5.43 ERA over his first 51 starts with the team—Jimenez' value has skyrocketed after an amazing career resurgence that began in late May.
Over the span of 23 starts, the right-hander posted a 2.41 ERA with 123 hits and 58 walks allowed to go along with 147 strikeouts in 138 innings pitched. He had trouble getting through six innings early in the run but appeared to be getting stronger as the season went along.
While averaging close to seven innings per start, Jimenez pitched like an "ace" with a 1.72 ERA, 23 walks and 94 strikeouts in 78.1 innings pitched over his last 12 starts. With that kind of last impression, there's no way he's settling for a one-year, $14 million deal with the Tribe.
He could easily match San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum's new two-year contract worth a reported $35 million. But it's also likely he can get that same amount per season ($17.5 million) over four or five years.
Here are three teams that would be great fits for Jimenez.
The free-agent market is not a place the Rockies expect to find front-line starting pitchers. And the Rockies are exactly the team that free-agent pitchers try to avoid. Coors Field and pitchers usually aren't a good match.
It's not that pitchers don't occasionally have success there. But it's too risky for either side to want to find out if it will work out or not.
Jimenez might be the rare exception, though, because the Rockies know him so well and because he's had success pitching at their hitter's haven of a ballpark.
Originally signed by the team as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, Jimenez debuted late in 2006 and finally made it to the majors for good in the second half of 2007. Slowly but surely, he was developing into one of the better pitchers in the league.
From 2009-10, he posted a 34-20 record with a 3.17 ERA in 66 starts. Overall, he's posted a 3.67 ERA in 419.2 career innings at Coors Field. He clearly wasn't effected by it's hitter-friendly conditions.
So would he return so soon after just resurrecting his career?
My guess is that his confidence level is sky-high, and he feels every bit as good as he did when he was at his peak with the Rockies. They might have to go five years to convince him, but I think he'd be excited about a return to an organization where he had so much success.
A Rockies' rotation with Jimenez has a chance to be very good...
1 Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
2 Jorge De La Rosa, LHP
3 Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
4 Tyler Chatwood, RHP
5 Drew Pomeranz, LHP
If the Yankees are going to have a chance to compete next season, they must open up the pocketbook and spend big in free agency. For a team that brings in so much revenue and consistently has one of the top, if not the top, payrolls in the game, that shouldn't be a problem.
But as of last winter, the Yankees were reportedly leaning toward trimming their payroll beneath $189 million, which is the threshold for a team to pay the luxury tax.
But the state of the current roster, which might have more obvious holes than any team in baseball, is the reason they'll revert to the Yankees way of thinking. They'll worry less about how much they're spending and more about how they're going to build a champion next season.
And while a big part of that plan would be to re-sign second baseman Robinson Cano, it's the starting rotation that needs the most work. CC Sabathia no longer resembles a front-line starter, and there's no guarantee he can bounce back.
The Yankees have a few options on the free-agent market, including Matt Garza and Ervin Santana, but it's Jimenez who might be the best fit to a lead a rotation that would likely include fellow countrymen Ivan Nova (pictured) and Michael Pineda.
Known for his strong work ethic, Jimenez could be the perfect mentor for the young Dominican duo, as well as two of their best prospects, catcher Gary Sanchez and pitcher Rafael De Paula. Both are also from the Dominican Republic and could reach New York by year two of Jimenez's contract.
Even the good version of Jimenez isn't enough to turn this rotation around—they'll need at least one more starter. Here's what they'd look like with just Jimenez added to the mix...
1 Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
2 CC Sabathia, LHP
3 Ivan Nova, RHP
4 David Phelps, RHP
5 Michael Pineda, RHP
Whatever the Pirates and pitching coach Ray Searage did to help Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett resurrect their careers once they arrived in Pittsburgh, it's probably a pretty good selling point for any free-agent pitcher. Especially one like Jimenez who went from great to really bad almost overnight and couldn't return to form for nearly two years.
With Burnett's salary off the books, the Bucs could either try to re-sign him, look for a short-term stopgap, replace him internally or make the bold move to acquire a front-line starter this winter.
Since they haven't shown much interest in trading their best prospects, expect a free-agent signing rather than a trade if they go that route. And since Matt Garza and Ervin Santana would likely be out of their price range, Jimenez could certainly be a target for Pittsburgh as long as his price tag is reasonable.
Investing long-term in a pitcher who might need to be "fixed" again is risky. But that's also the reason he'll probably come at a cheaper price than Garza or Santana. And if Liriano (pictured) continues his dominance and Jimenez shows up as the same pitcher he was over the last four months of 2013, the Bucs will be in a strong position to return to the postseason as legitimate World Series contenders.
Here's a look at what that rotation might look like...
1 Francisco Liriano, LHP
2 Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
3 Gerrit Cole, RHP
4 Wandy Rodriguez, LHP
5 Charlie Morton, RHP/Jeff Locke, LHP/Jameson Taillon, RHP
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