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Trade Deadline Recap: Indians Acquire Jimenez

August 4, 2011

The Cleveland Indians have been the surprise team in the AL Central for most of the season so far, so to say they would likely make a move of some kind prior to the trade deadline would seem to make sense. Injuries to Shin Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore left the team in need to an outfielder, prior to acquiring Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs. Production received from much of the infield had been a disappointment, leading to promotions to Lonnie Chisenhall, Cord Phelps, and Jason Kipnis.

The starting rotation has also seen it’s share of troubles. Nine different pitchers have started a game for the Indians this season. But strictly from a performance perspective one wouldn’t have been able to say that the rotation was the team’s weak point. Justin Masterson has been leading the way, having a career season that’s placing him amongst the top starters in the AL. Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco have been dependable. Between Fausto Carmona, Mitch Talbot, David Huff, Zack McAllister, and Alex White there seemed to be enough depth to keep things on pace over the remainder of the season.

But, it’s not everyday that a potential Ace becomes available on the trade market. At least, that’s what Ubaldo Jimenez is capable of being. The Indians – like numerous other teams which reportedly expressed some interest – made an offer and acquired the right hander in exchange for three pitchers – White, Drew Pomeranz, and Joe Gardner – and first baseman Matt McBride.

The fact that Jimenez was available in the first place seemed to surprise many, with some questioning whether the Colorado Rockies knew something that they weren’t making public about the 27-year-old right hander. However, despite the uncertainty and his underwhelming 2011 season there was still plenty of interest in a player who should be amongst the game’s best pitchers. That’s even before you look at the fact that he’s signed to a very team friendly contract that will pay him just $4.2 Million next season with two club options for 2013 and 2014 which combined would only cost an additional $13.75 Million.

The problem is he has had a very off season this year. In fact, this extends back to the 2010 All Star Break and has become a little concerning. The first half of the 2010 season, Jimenez sprinted out of the gates and posted a 15-1 record, 2.20 ERA, 113 strikeouts over 127.0 innings. Opponents batted just .198/.280/.302 against him. Over the latter half of that season Jimenez was a different pitcher. In 15 starts (94.2 innings) he went just 4-7 with a 3.80 ERA.

In 2011, he’s made 21 starts totaling 123.0 innings. He’s posted a 6-9 record with a 4.46 ERA and 118 strikeouts. His velocity has seemed down for much of the season and he’s often struggled to avoid big innings against him. The reason for the struggles is right now the great question and Indians fans are hoping that there isn’t something there that the Rockies didn’t share. If healthy, and if he can transition to the AL, Jimenez gives the Indians a second premier starter (alongside Masterson) to build around going forward – meaning this team could remain competitive beyond the next two months.

White, 22, made his MLB debut earlier this season for the Indians. He made 3 starts, going 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA over 15 innings. He struck out 13 but walked 9. He hasn’t thrown many innings in the minor leagues on the season either due to a blister that has kept him out of action for nearly two months. He should slide right into Colorado’s rotation as he’s the only MLB-ready talent received by the team in this trade.

Pomeranz, 22, is the other key piece to the trade. Having been drafted just last year, he technically cannot be named as part of the trade until August 16th – one year from the date that he signed with Cleveland. The Indians have not held back on the young left hander as he was recently promoted to Double-A. In 18 starts on the season he’s totaled a 3-3 record and 2.19 ERA.

Gardner, 23, has also been pitching out of the rotation in Double-A but to lesser results. He’s 7-8 with a 4.99 ERA in 19 starts (97.1 innings). Control has been a concern and left handed batters have hit him hard this season.

McBride, 26, is the only position player in the deal and more of a minor league veteran than the rest. He hits Double-A pitching very well but has struggled to see those results translate at Triple-A. In 45 at bats at the level this season he’s hitting just .156/.191/.267.

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