Okay, you’ve read the title, and wherever you are, I can hear you fuming right now. No matter what part of this world you’re in, I can tell that you’re already unhappy. Just stick with me here. Try, as I will, I’m sure there’s plenty that won’t be persuaded. I’m okay with this though, as it’s part of the game.
Signed to a four year, $50MM contract on February 19, 2014, Ubaldo Jimenez was expected to build on his successful 13-9 campaign in 2013, and help the Orioles get to the postseason. He was expected to pitch 175+ innings in each of his four years, and anchor the starting rotation. He was expected to lower the overall ERA of the starting five, and bring respectability to a rotation that was second to last in ERA in the American League East in 2013. Instead, Orioles fans have seen quite the contrast, with just a few shining moments.
Since joining the Orioles, Jimenez has gone 26-31 overall, and has pitched to a 4.72 ERA, with a 4.33 FIP in 86 appearances (79 starts). In each of his three seasons with the O’s, he has thrown more pitches per at-bat than the major league average, and has been under the major league average for total strikes thrown. He’s also been under the major league average for first-pitch strike percentage in two of the past three seasons. Jimenez hasn’t had an abundance of success in an Orioles uniform.
However, there have been moments to talk about in a positive manner. Take for example his last four starts in 2014. Upon returning from the DL, Jimenez went 3-1, while allowing three runs or less in each win. A strong finish to a season that saw him go 3-8, with an ERA of 4.52 in the first half. Even with the stronger finish to the season, his ERA did elevate to 5.96 in the back half.
A rebounded 2015 season saw Jimenez finish with an ERA of 4.11, and a 12-10 overall record, while leading the pitching staff in strikeouts, with 168. He also posted the best WHIP, and FIP of his Orioles career, with a 1.359, and 4.01 respectively. Jimenez was able to reel of four straight wins in a perfect month of June that saw him pitch to an ERA of 3.28, while holding opponents to just a .288 OBP.
Down the stretch in 2016, Jimenez turned in four quality starts from August 25, to September 10, while picking up three wins. His ERA was 2.83, and he was able to limit hitters to not only a .160 batting average, but a .215 OBP. His complete game shutout on September 5 against the Rays was quite possibly his best performance as an Oriole.
Unfortunately for Jimenez though, the bad outweighs the good.
So why haven’t the Orioles cut ties with him? Well, performance affects a possible trade, and we all know his performance hasn’t been anything related to decent. Based off of his consistently poor performance in the starting rotation, no team, except for the San Diego Padres back in July, has been willing to take on the remainder of his $50MM salary.
Jimenez is owed $13.5MM in the final year of his contract, and I honestly don’t think he’s going anywhere. In order to move him, the Orioles would need to find a suitor that shares mutual interest. The Atlanta Braves, for example, had a starting rotation finish 2016 with an ERA just under 5, at 4.87. A trade for Ubaldo, even with his 4.72 ERA in Baltimore, would be a slight improvement for them, however, they would most likely have to deal a prospect or two to the Orioles in exchange. With the Braves being committed to re-building, and starting to make the right moves towards the future, this deal would probably flounder.
Other National League teams that the Orioles could workout a deal with would be the Philadelphia Phillies (4.41 rotation ERA), the Milwaukee Brewers (4.40 rotation ERA), and the Cincinnati Reds (4.79 rotation ERA).
I personally think the Orioles keep Jimenez in the starting rotation for 2017, until he pitches his way out of it. Yes, he has struggled consistently, and yes, his ERA has been through the roof, but there is at the very least a decent long man behind that six-foot-five frame of his. He’s come this far with the team, why not give the guy a chance to make amends in the final year of his contract? At the very least, when Ubaldo takes the hill against sub-.500 teams, his ERA drops to a 3.65, with a WHIP of 1.299, and an overall 47-38 record.
If only they could limit his appearances against those clubs only….