When the Cleveland Indians traded for Ubaldo Jimenez near the 2011 trading deadline, many Tribe fans were left feeling pessimistic (the common Cleveland fan’s go-to emotion, and rightfully so). After delivering a dominant performance during the 2010 season, Jimenez was having major issues on the mound during the early stages of the 2011 season, posting a 6-9 record with a 4.46 ERA prior to being traded. So, it seemed like a puzzling move for the Indians when they gave up two top-tier pitching prospects to acquire the struggling Jimenez. The two highly-touted prospects (Drew Pomeranz and Alex White) seemed to have similarly bright futures ahead of them, while Jimenez appeared to be a major question mark.
Post-trade struggles for Jimenez in 2011 only increased the fan skepticism of the club’s deadline deal. By the time Ubaldo’s miserable 2012 campaign came to an end (do I really need to provide the stats?), it appeared that his recession into national obscurity was nearly complete. Yet, due to the fact that the Indians exercised his contract option for the 2013 season, the city of Cleveland knew that Jimenez would continue to be an infamous topic of discussion around town for at least one more season.
Luckily for team president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti, Pomeranz and White have only seen their stocks drop rapidly since the trade. Pomeranz struggled mightily in his first near-full season as a member of the Rockies starting rotation, and has since been optioned back to the minor leagues. After also performing poorly while serving a large portion of 2012 on the Rockies starting pitching staff, White was then traded to the Astros during the offseason and is currently on the 60-day disabled list.
As Jimenez’s velocity started to drop during the 2011 season, so did his productivity. No longer able to consistently overpower hitters with upper-90’s fastballs, Jimenez struggled mightily over the past few seasons with commanding his pitches. During spring training, reports came out of Indians camp that new pitching coach Mickey Callaway had slightly tweaked Jimenez’s jerky windup to develop more consistency in his ability to command the strike zone. Jimenez experienced a shaky start to the season, going 1-2 with a 7.13 ERA during the month of April. It seemed as if Tribe fans were going to suffer through yet another awful season of pitching performances from Ubaldo. Since then, however, the 29 year-old righty has gone 4-2 while lowering his ERA to a much more respectable (yet still pretty terrible) 4.66. Finally, he seems to be (gulp) turning the corner. The one area for concern that does still exist, though, is his high pitch counts. Jimenez has struggled at times this season with keeping his pitch count low enough to continue pitching deep into ball games. Regardless, Ubaldo’s improved consistency over the past two months has certainly been a pleasant surprise.
Now it’s time to take our seemingly semi-annual evaluation of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Although he has posted solid numbers in Triple-A ball so far this season, the jury is still out on whether Drew Pomeranz will ever be able to reach his full potential. As for Alex White, did you read the part about him joining the Astros? And Cleveland is finally starting to real in some productivity from the once-coveted enigma that is Ubaldo Jimenez. Edge: Tribe…for now.