February 12, 2014
Failures to Communicate
No recent contact between Indians, Ubaldo Jimenez
A source told Rosenthal that general manager Chris Antonetti and Jimenez’s representatives at SFX have not been in contact in “weeks,” leaving the former Rockie to search for a team willing to cough up its highest draft pick to sign him on the heels of his best season since 2010. The Blue Jays are the club most recently connected to the 30-year-old, but that was nearly two weeks ago, and there has been no indication that talks have progressed.
Jimenez did his best work during the second half of last year, when his K:BB ratio soared from 1.77 before the All-Star break to 3.70 the rest of the way. During that stretch, he struck out 100 batters and issued only 27 walks in 84 innings—and served up only three home runs, to boot.
Much of the credit goes to Indians pitching coaching Mickey Calloway (with whom he worked well) and Jimenez himself, as he tweaked his mechanics and increased his slider usage, but the turnaround also coincided with a change the Indians made behind the plate. For most of the second half, Yan Gomes, not Carlos Santana, was in the squat when Jimenez took the mound.
Here are Jimenez’s post-All-Star-break numbers split by catcher:
The sample sizes here are small and the disparity may be nothing more than a blip, but it appears that Gomes’ pitch-framing prowess (+10 runs) played a role in Jimenez’s improved control and effectiveness, while Santana’s poor effort (-9 runs) hindered him during the first half. Jimenez also benefited from a light second-half schedule, taking on teams ranked in the bottom third in True Average in eight of his last 13 starts and each of his last five.
The latter caveat might be contributing to the caution with which pitching-needy teams are approaching Jimenez this winter. The former might be one reason for him to consider returning to Cleveland if the Tribe decides to come calling.
As spring training begins, the Indians’ rotation features Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber, and Danny Salazar, with Carlos Carrasco, Zach McAllister, Josh Tomlin, and minor-league pickup Shaun Marcum in the mix for the last two spots. Tomlin missed most of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and Carrasco, who went under the knife in September 2011, struggled in his return to the majors last year.
PECOTA projects the Indians to go 79-83 in 2014, well short of the 88 wins the Tribe would need to secure another wild card berth, and to allow 730 runs, 88 more than any of the projected playoff teams. Bringing back Jimenez could help to bridge those gaps, but unless things have changed in the last month—when Jimenez’s agents still expected him to secure a multi-year deal with an AAV comparable to the qualifying offer—a reunion is unlikely.
Emilio Bonifacio, anyone?
Two weeks later, the Royals decided they didn’t want to pay the 28-year-old switch-hitter that much money to serve as their utility man. If Bonifacio is claimed, they will owe him nothing. If he slips through waivers and becomes a free agent, they’ll be forced to pay him $575,000.
Although the $3.5 million price tag is a strong deterrent, Rosenthal believes that one of the many clubs interested in Bonifacio might pluck him to get ahead of the competition. Bonifacio spent most of the 2013 campaign with the Blue Jays, scuffling to a .215 True Average in 282 plate appearances before a mid-August trade to Kansas City breathed some life into his bat. He finished the year with a .253 TAv and .352 on-base percentage in 179 trips to the box for the Royals.
David Hill of Kings of Kauffman speculated that Bonifacio could make sense for the Dodgers, Orioles, Red Sox, and Yankees. At the time, both Hill and SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo thought that general manager Dayton Moore would be able to pin down a trade partner. That did not happen.
Now, Bonifacio must wait until this afternoon to find out whether some team will pay him $3.5 million this year. Nine clubs are pondering the situation, according to Cotillo, so he’ll have no shortage of suitors if he ends up hitting the open market.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reported on Monday that the Phillies could still add Burnett to a rotation fronted by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. ESPN’s Buster Olney heard from sources last week that Burnett would prefer to stay in the National League, which suggested that the Pirates and Phillies might be the frontrunners and fueled speculation that the Nationals might get involved.
From a win-curve standpoint, investing in Burnett would seem to be a strange decision for the Phillies, who are projected to finish 10 games under .500 and 12 behind the first-place Nats in the East. The 37-year-old might also prefer to finish his career with a team that is better equipped to win a pennant in 2014. But if the Phillies are willing to outbid their senior-circuit rivals—perhaps with an eye toward trading Burnett in July if they fall out of contention—it’s too soon to rule them out.