I had a conversation tonight with a friend about Ubaldo Jimenez’s trade value. I asked him if he’d trade the 27 year-old pitcher if he was the Rockies and he said no based on his affordable contract. Jimenez is signed for $2.8 million this year, $4.2 million next year and then has a $5.75 million and $8 million team option for 2013 and 2014. Obviously that’s a very team friendly deal for any team in the majors. Then I asked if he’d trade him for a Zack Greinke-like return. Greinke was traded this past offseason for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress. He said he would. So, using that framework for a deal, what should the Rockies be looking for if they deal their ace pitcher at the deadline?
Before we look for some partners for the Rox, let’s take a closer look at the Royals return for their ace. Greinke, who was 27 at the time of the trade, was one season removed from a Cy Young winning season where he posted historic numbers. The rest of his seasons had been generally above average to good with the exception of 2005 where he was shockingly bad. He had two seasons left on his contract at 13.5 million dollars. The Royals also gave up Yuniesky Betancourt whose effect on this deal is negligible.
In return, the Royals got a light hitting defensive wizard in Escobar, a decent hitting slick fielding center fielder in Cain, a former Top 100 pitching prospect and first round pick in Jeffress, and the current 69th ranked prospect and former first round pick in Odorizzi.
Since Jimenez and Greinke are the same age and are really only working off one great season, have no major injury issues that I can think of unless you count Greinke’s anexiety issue, I think they’re pretty comparable. Jimenez’s stats are just slightly better, but if we take out Greinke’s awful 2005 they’re basically the same (W-L is similar and ERAs are right around 3.60). Whoever gets Jimenez would be getting 3.5 years of him at a very reasonable price as opposed to Greinke’s two more expensive (but still affordable) years. I must also take into account that this would be a deadline deal which drives the price up. Teams get a little more desperate for that edge and are willing to overpay.
So who matches up with what Colorado? I’m going to eliminate all teams who are five games out of their division races at this point. Even though this deal could be made for the long term, any team that far out of it could wait until the offseason and let the price drop a bit. Also, it makes it easier on me. Also, I’m going to take out teams like Brewers who sold the farm to get Greinke, the Giants and D-Backs who are in the same division as Colorado, and the Pirates because they’re not going to mortgage their future of cheap talent for Jimenez. That leaves us with this list: Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, White Sox, Rangers, Angels, Phillies, Braves, Cardinals, and Reds. Quite a list still.
The White Sox may be sellers anyway, the Phillies aren’t going to trade for another starter and the Braves won’t either. The Cardinals discussion would start and end with Shelby Miller and he’s not going anywhere. The Rangers probably won’t go all out on another pitcher this year and the Angels don’t know what to do with themselves. I’m cutting them all.
That leaves the Yanks, Red Sox, Indians, and Reds.
The Yankees are the team we’re hearing the most about, which I can understand. Jimenez has been better than every New York starter not named Sabathia this year. But can they match up with the steep asking price? Probably not. Apparently the Rockies have no interest in Yanks’ top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero. The Rockies would probably be after 20 year old lefty Manny Banuelos, who I remember drawing rave reviews at Spring Training this year. Yanks GM has said he’s not interested in trading the young pitcher. If I’m the Rockies, that basically closes the book on that deal.
As we all know, wherever the Yankees are, the Sox aren’t far behind. I’m sure they’d at least check in on a deal but I doubt anything serious would happen. The Sox probably aren’t ready to give up on John Lackey just yet even though he’s been painfully bad and the rest of their rotation has been good. The Sox gave up some of their top prospects to get Adrian Gonzalez this past offseason so they probably won’t be in a hurry to deplete the farm system even more.
The Indians are a surprise on my list and are not getting Jimenez. Just for fun, I’d think they’d have to send three of their top four prospects with 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, RHP Alex White, and LHP Drew Pomeranz all heading to Colorado. The Rockies would surely also request someone who is already in the Bigs, so young starter Carlos Carrasco would also be in the deal. Too much for the Indians.
Finally we reach the Reds. This is the team who makes the most sense to me. The Reds have lots of young pitching plus some top prospects at positions the Rockies could use. The Reds currently sit four games back in the cluttered NL Central and could use a top notch starter to go along with Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, and Bronson Arroyo. They could send former top pick Mike Leake along with first base prospect Yonder Alonso plus another prospect or two and get a deal done. Maybe see how the Rockies feel about Travis Wood or Homer Bailey. Two of the Reds’ top five prospects are catchers, one of whom, Devin Mesoraco, is probably the best catching prospect in the game. Since only one catcher can play at at time, add the second, Yasmani Grandal, into the deal.
From the Rockies perspective, they’re getting two big league pitchers in Leake and Wood/Bailey, an heir apparent to 37-year old Todd Helton in Alonso, and another solid catching prospect in Grandal. For the Reds, their rotation would consist of Jimenez, Arroyo, Volquez, Cueto, Wood/Bailey. That’s pretty solid. The loss of Alonso wouldn’t matter since they have a pretty good first baseman already and Grandal has already been chronicled. Seems like a win-win for both team to me.
Will Ubaldo Jimenez actually get traded? I doubt it, but it was fun to think about for a while.