Trade Bait: Ubaldo Jimenez to…Cleveland?

Even more improbable than the trade for Hunter Pence was the trade for Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez. Even up to the last few hours before he was traded, pundits stated that the chances of a trade were less than 50/50. But not only did it happen, Jimenez went to a commonly considered dark horse team of the list of teams that were pursuing him….the Cleveland Indians.

Personally, I was at the pool trying to evade the oppressive midwestern heat with my children when the trade went down. Looking at the MLBTR RSS feed and seeing the headline made me think that Tim Dierkes and crew had finally lost it in their blitzkrieg of updates. The Indians had held fast the past few seasons to rebuilding the core of their team and building within, a necessity for a midwestern team with a limited payroll.

But obviously the Indians are going all-in. New Indians GM Chris Antonelli assuming seems that his window is now. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Indians have three of their starters (Jimenez, Fausto Carmona, and Justin Masterson) under control through 2013. Hitters Travis Hafner, Shin-Soo Choo, and Asdrubal Cabrera will likely also be under team contract through that season. They will only have Grady Sizemore through 2012, if his option is picked up.

The Indians paid dearly for his services though. Colorado will receive the right-hander Alex White; Joseph Gardner, a Double-A starter; Matt McBride, a Triple-A first baseman; and a player to be named later.

The PTBNL will be prized pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz, who’s currently making Double-A hitters look bad. Due to MLB rules, they cannot officially name him in the trade until after August 15th. Pomeranz is the top prospect in this deal and probably the top prospect included in any deal that took place over the last week before the trade deadline. He is a fly ball pitcher though and may have troubles at Coors at times.

White is a starting rotation candidate with a good sinking fastball, splitter, and a slider as his top three pitches. However his mechanics are bad enough that he’s probably going to be injury-prone (as he is now) and in the long-term they’ll have to move him to the pen to relieve the stress on his arm. If so, he has the stuff to be dominant out of the pen eventually.

AL Central in Focus has a good scouting report on Joe Gardner, comparing him somewhat to Justin Masterson. However, due to his walk rate and his lack of an out-pitch for lefties, I see him as more of a reliever in the long run. It will be interesting how he and White end up.

First baseman/outfielder Matt McBride is enjoying the best offensive season of his career. But it is also his third season at Double-A. There’s a chance that he could be a corner infielder/outfield bench player, but that seems to be his ceiling at this time.

On the surface it looks like a very good haul for a pitcher that many consider a #2 instead of an ace. With Jimenez’s average fastball velocity down, reverting to the troubles he had after the 15-win start he had last season may be likely. But in Cleveland’s defense, they received an upper-tier starter for their main contention window, giving them hope to reach the playoffs this season and the next two after it. They could have negotiated for someone else this winter when there may be more choices available, but there would be more interested parties to contend with as well.

The inclusion of both White and especially Pomeranz in this deal pushes this deal in the favor of the Rockies. Not by much, but gives O’Dowd time to rebuild the roster for another run in a couple years, while Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are still in their prime. I just don’t believe that Jimenez can be dominant throughout his time in Cleveland.

But maybe I’m just a pessimist.

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