Forget the Pillow Contract – Sign Ubaldo Jimenez Long-Term


June 7, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) pitches against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Indians Should Pursue Ubaldo Jimenez Long-Term

Steve Kinsella touched on why a pillow contract doesn’t make sense for Ubaldo Jimenez in his recent article, and, as always, Steve had brilliant points. He was absolutely right:

  • “If Jimenez isn’t satisfied with any of the multi-year offers with other teams the Indians should certainly give him a multi-year offer of their own at a market rate that aligns with their team fiscal direction.”
  • “If the Indians were to make him a 1-year pillow contract offer, it has been suggested that the offer would be around the same value of the qualifying offer. That too would be a mistake. By settling on a 1-year deal with him, the Indians lose out on the draft pick compensation (somewhere between first and second round) that would off-set the risk that the club took when extending the qualifying offer.”

But here is where we differ:

If the Indians were to re-sign Ubaldo Jimenez to a one-year deal or a long-term contract, isn’t his value, if productive, more valuable than draft pick compensation? That is, of course, if the Cleveland Indians are in it to win it in 2014…

Additionally, shouldn’t the Indians WANT to sign Jimenez, not allowing him to get a better offer from another club, even if the one-year deal is between $14 and $17 million, just to have him in Cleveland for another season, allowing him to hit the market next winter where they may not be a Tanaka, while allowing him to be the second-tier options to Max Scherzer and Homer Bailey (if they both reach free agency)? A one-year deal may be a bit more ideal for the club, especially due to the risk of Jimenez returning to pre-2013 form, but if Jimenez is waiting for a deal well into Spring Training, it may be worth a “prove it” deal, possibly loaded with performance incentives.

Additionally, Justin Masterson is a free agent after the 2014 season, likely to earn $10 million in his final year of arbitration (courtesy of Mark Swartz of MLBTradeRumors), but with long-term contract discussions breaking down and Masterson and the Indians submitting arbitration figures that were $3.75 million apart, the largest of any potential arbitration case ($11.8 vs. $8.05), how will this process impact the likelihood of any long-term agreement?

If the Indians don’t sign Masterson to an extension or they don’t re-start negotiations and they go to arbitration with the big right-hander, the negative impact that it could have on the club’s relationship could severely deter any future negotiations.

If the Indians don’t have Masterson or Jimenez in 2015, how are they going to contend? Are Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber, and Zach McAllister enough to lead a rotation?

Ubaldo Jimenez may come with some risk due to his horrific 2011 and 2012 experiences in Cleveland, but if the Indians were able to re-sign him with some incentives for production, as the Milwaukee Brewers did in their agreement with Matt Garza, they would not only protect themselves from a potentially dangerous signing, but they could be protecting themselves from losing the only truly reliable arms in the rotation for the long haul.

The Chicago Cubs didn’t sign Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal to compete in 2013. They signed him as a piece for when they are contending in 2015 or 2016, when Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and Arismendy Alcantara are making major league impacts. Who will pitch for the Indians if they are contending then, as well?

The Indians may be attempting to be cost conscious, but they can’t afford to allow both Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez to walk. With such a dramatic gap between what Justin Masterson feels he is worth and what the Indians feel that he is worth, it may be time for the Tribe to open their wallets for Ubaldo Jimenez, protecting their contention window and their pitching staff for several years down the road.