Ubaldo Jimenez has now pitched two full seasons for the Cleveland Indians since being traded there by the Colorado Rockies in the middle of 2011. The tenure would best be characterized as unpredictable.
In 2012 he went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA and a 5.06 FIP (fielding independent pitching). His xFIP of 4.98 also tells the story of a guy who struggled all season. Finally, his BB/9 climbed to a career high 4.84.
With a lot to prove in 2013, Jimenez turned things around. He went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA, 3.43 FIP and 3.62 xFIP. Entering free agency, that promised to be more than enough to entice a team to sign him to a long-term contract worth big money. Starting pitching in the currency of Major League Baseball, after all, and teams will overpay to acquire it. That’s just a fact.
Unfortunately for Jimenez, the timing might not be right for him to capitalize on his strong season (and especially his strong second half). The starting pitching market is actually kind of crowded, with Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka the main target while guys like Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and even Bronson Arroyo wait for the phone to ring. Of the group Jimenez might be the biggest risk because he has been so inconsistent, not to mention the fact that it will cost the team a draft pick.
It is in that context that Doug Mittler of ESPN writes that Jimenez might return to Cleveland after all…just not on his terms (insider subscription required). While Cleveland has mostly been left to assume it does not have the money to re-sign Jimenez, they might be able to get him on a shorter deal if no other team offers what he is looking for.
Ubaldo might be back in Cleveland after all.