by Ryan Isley
Just last week on More Than A Fan, Hayden Grove wrote a piece on Ubaldo Jimenez and how he doesn’t think the trade was a disaster quite yet for the Cleveland Indians – going far enough to even say that Jimenez has been brilliant at times.
In that same piece, he took a shot at me because he knows how I have felt about this trade from day one.
As a refresher, the Indians sent pitchers Alex White and Joe Gardner along with outfielder/first baseman Matt McBride and a player to be named later (pitcher Drew Pomeranz) to the Colorado Rockies for Jimenez on July 30, 2011.
In making this deal, the Indians sent their top two minor league pitchers (White and Pomeranz) to Colorado, meaning they were expecting Jimenez to come in and be the ace of the staff immediately. Otherwise, they would not have been willing to include both White and Pomeranz, which was the part of the deal I never understood. Sending one of them to Colorado would have been fine, but to send them both seemed to be a steep price to pay – and it meant that Jimenez HAD to dominate right away.
The issue with trading for Jimenez was that there were warning signs that he was in a decline.
Jimenez started the 2010 season with the Rockies by winning 17 of his first 22 starts and running up a record of 17-2 with a 2.61 ERA. However, in the 11 starts after he was 17-2, Jimenez was 2-6 with an ERA of 3.44. Some just brushed it off because it is difficult to maintain those numbers over an entire season, so it just seemed natural that his numbers would drop over time.
Then in 2011, Jimenez started the season 1-7 with a 4.63 ERA and was 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA when the trade was made. Ubaldo’s 2011 didn’t get much better when he moved to the American League, as he posted a record of 4-4 and an ERA of 5.10 in 65.1 innings pitched for the Indians in his 11 starts.
Not exactly the numbers you would want to see from a guy you wanted to run out there every five days and not have to worry about him.
While some were willing to give Jimenez the benefit of the doubt for 2011 because of injuries and a move to another league, others (myself included) were starting to wonder if we would ever see the Jimenez who posted that 17-2 record through his first 22 starts in 2010.
Heading into 2012, the Indians were no longer looking at the 28-year-old as the ace of the staff, and even went as far to have Justin Masterson start the season opener and not Jimenez. The move was seen as more of a reward for Masterson pitching well, but could also be seen as a move to alleviate some of the pressure off of Jimenez to allow him to only worry about pitching.
That move didn’t work either.
Through his first seven starts this season, Jimenez is 3-3 with a 5.18 ERA, pushing him to 7-7 with a 5.13 ERA overall as an Indian. Jimenez has posted three quality starts (6+ innings pitched with 3 or less earned runs allowed) this season, but has been extremely inconsistent and has a longest outing of just seven innings.
Jimenez has three outings of five innings or less and has allowed six hits or more in five of the seven starts and has also allowed four or more earned runs in four of the seven starts.
While those numbers are alarming, they don’t tell the whole story. The numbers that should really concern Indians fans are Ubaldo’s K-BB and WHIP.
In 2009 and 2010 with the Rockies, his K-BB ratio struck out 2.32 batters for every walk allowed. With the Rockies in 2011, it was 2.31 strikeouts per walk and with the Indians, it was 2.3 strikeouts per walk. This season, Jimenez has struck out just 24 batters and has walked 30 for a negative K-BB ratio.
Those numbers translate right into his WHIP, which was 1.229 in 2009, 1.155 in 2010 and then 1.374 in his starts with Colorado in 2011. After the trade to Cleveland, his WHIP was 1.454 in 2011 and then has reached 1.775 this season. Those aren’t just bad numbers, it is a bad trend that could completely derail Jimenez if they aren’t fixed.
The one thing saving the Indians a complete embarrassment on the trade is that White and Pomeranz – the two cornerstones given up – have not panned out yet either.
Pomeranz made his first Major League start of the season on April 15th but was sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week after going 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in his five starts. In his only start in Triple-A so far, Pomeranz went six scoreless innings and struck out five while walking zero. It was a positive step for the 23-year-old, because he had walked 15 batters in 23 innings in the Majors.
As for White, he has made two starts for the Rockies this season after beginning 2012 in Triple-A, where he was 1-3 but had just a 2.92 ERA and 21 strikeouts to only eight walks in his 24.1 innings pitched. White was called up to Colorado and has made two starts since joining the Rockies. He is 0-2 with an ERA of 6.75 following a terrible game on Sunday when he allowed six earned runs in just 4.1 innings.
The difference facing the Rockies is that these two pitchers are still young (both 23 years old) and have plenty of time to mature in Major League pitchers. If either of them can turn out to be what the Indians expected when they drafted them in the first round, the trade will be heavily tilted in favor of Colorado.
It is still too early to completely grade the trade and what each team got in return, but at this point it would seem that the Indians didn’t win the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. This is not to say that the Indians lost the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, however. As of right now, the trade would seem to be a draw. Unfortunately for the Indians, this was a trade they could not afford to draw – they had to have a win.
So maybe Hayden was right – the trade hasn’t been a complete disaster just yet.
But it also hasn’t been a positive for the Indians – and that was something they could not afford.
What do you think – have the Indians won the trade, lost the trade or drawn even in the trade? Leave a comment or email Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org