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Orioles sign SP Ubaldo Jimenez to four-year, $50 million deal
It's not a stretch to say that Ubaldo Jimenez may have been the best pitcher in the major leagues when the 2013 regular season ended.
Over his final nine starts, the right-hander was nearly unhittable, posting a 1.65 ERA with 15 walks and 79 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched while holding opponents to a .558 OPS. He allowed only one homer and struck out at least 10 batters four times, including 13 in his last start of the season.
The former Colorado Rockies ace, who had struggled mightily since being acquired by the Cleveland Indians in July 2011, had begun to find his previous form in late May. After posting a 2.41 ERA over his final 23 starts leading up to his first venture into free agency, a mega-deal would appear likely to follow.
With Masahiro Tanaka's posting process not concluding until late January, the free-agent market for starting pitchers was slowed, which was not unexpected. But Jimenez's four-year, $50 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles, which was announced on Monday, is significantly lower than had been anticipated.
For his age 30-33 seasons, an average annual salary of $12.5 million is a huge bargain if Jimenez can carry over his success from last season.
Every pitcher comes with risk, and one like Jimenez, who posted a 5.10 ERA with a 4.66 BB/9 in a 61-start span after being traded to the Indians, comes with major red flags. But the Orioles, after two consecutive winning seasons, were at risk of falling back down the ladder in a competitive AL East if they didn't make a major move or two this offseason.
Adding Jimenez to the top of their rotation should help tremendously in 2014, and his presence should make it easier for the team to ease top pitching prospects Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Eduardo Rodriguez into the mix over the next two seasons.