Ubaldo Jiminez not worth the price being discussed
Concerns about the 2011 version of the New York Yankees pitching staff can be traced all the way back to Brian Cashman’s failure to sign free agent Cliff Lee in the off-season.
Matters were made worse when Andy Pettitte made a prolonged decision to retire and stay in Texas rather than come back and pitch in the Bronx.
With Lee in Philadelphia and Pettitte in Texas, Cashman turned to the scrap heap and tried to play Dr. Frankenstein and breathe life into the likes of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.
At first it looked as though the crazy lab experiment had worked. Garcia and Colon pitched very well in the first two months of the season.
Even then there were concerns with Ivan Nova being erratic, Phil Hughes going on the DL and AJ Burnett just being AJ Burnett.
Now with Nova demoted, Burnett still being Burnett, Hughes experimenting with a new curve ball and Garcia and Colon looking like the Frankenstein monster afraid of fire and pitch forks, worries about starting pitching in New York are fevered.
Now we are less than two weeks from the trade deadline and the wires are hot with rumors about Cashman seeking starting pitching for the Yankees.
Yankee fans (and probably Yankee brass) salivate when they consider that Jiminez was 19-8 last season with a 2.88 ERA.
But there are many reasons why the Yankees should not make a trade for Jiminez even if the price does not include most of their top farm hands.
First of all, look at the body of Jiminez’s work in the big leagues, not just 2010.
For his career, Ubaldo is 55-44 with a 3.60 ERA. His WHIP is 1.274. For his career he has averaged 7.6 hits and 3.9 walks per nine innings.
This year he is just 5-8 with an ERA of 4.08 and a WHIP of 1.305. This year he is giving up more than eight hits per nine innings but has reduced his base on balls slightly.
So his body of work is not sufficient to give up the moon and stars for this hard throwing right-hander.
But there is also history to be considered.
That history has everything to do with the Yankees making big mistakes based on National League pitchers who have had one spectacular year and then flopped completely with the Yankees.
Most recently we only have to look to last season with Javier Vazquez to realize how precarious it is to bring a National League pitcher into the American League East.
It seemed as though Vazquez had pitched brilliantly for the Atlanta Braves in 2009. He went 15-10 and had an ERA of 2.88.
So Cashman traded for him and in his second stint with the Bombers he was 10-10 with an ERA of 5.32.
There are many other examples of Cashman going out and getting National League pitchers who had a moment in the sun but could not perform under the glare of the lights in NYC.
Kevin Brown was 14-9 with the Dodgers in 2003 and had an ERA of just 2.39. So Cashman brought him over to the Yankees.
In two seasons with the Yankees Brown was lousy. In 2004 he was 10-6 with a 4.09 ERA. In 2005 he was completely worthless at 4-7 and an ERA of 6.50.
Carl Pavano had pitched brilliantly with the Florida Marlins. So Cashman signed him as a free agent before the 2005 season.
The American Idle got a four year contract, but would actually pitch only parts of three seasons with the Yanks.
His combined record with the Yankees was 9-8 with an ERA over 5.00.
Another flop was Jaret Wright. Wright had pitched in the American League with the Indians and had been very good in his early 20s.
But arm problems, beginning in 2000 at age 24, kept him off the mound for most of the next six seasons.
In 2004 he rebounded with the Braves and went 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA. So Wright took this one year and parlayed it into a free agent signing with the Yankees in December 2004.
Wright would go 5-5 for the Yanks in 2005 with an ERA of 6.08. The next year he was only slightly better at 11-7 with a 4.49 ERA.
Another example of a National League pitcher who just could not convert to the American League East was Denny Neagle.
Neagle had great years with Atlanta and Cincinnati. In 1997 he was 20-5 in a Braves uniform with an ERA of just 2.97. In 1998 he was 16-11 with a 3.55 ERA.
He went to Cincinnati in 1999 and while there he was 17-7 with an ERA in 2000 of just 3.53.
So the Yankees acquired him on July 12, 2000. Neagle would go 7-7 with an ERA of 5.81 for the remainder of the championship 2000 season. In the postseason that year he was 0-2, losing both games he pitched in the playoffs.
Who would you trade for Ubaldo Jiminez?
There is a great statistical difference between pitching in the National League and pitching in the American League.
The difference is even greater in the American League East, where there is more offense.
The Yankees have made some great acquisitions mid-season and have signed some great free agent pitchers.
But in almost every such case, the pitcher had a proven record in the American League East.
You can go back to Jimmy Key. Think David Cone. And of course we all remember David Wells and Roger Clemens.
They were all great pick-ups that contributed to championship seasons.
But in every case they had already proven they could pitch in the American League East.
Before we all get too crazy to trade away the best young talent the Yankees have had in a long time, think about all the reasons you cannot trust trading for a National League pitcher.