And I guarantee you the team that wins it will beat an AL East team
KLaw piece on Ubaldo.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The announced deal (pending a physical) for the Cleveland Indians to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez would constitute a very good return for the Colorado Rockies but is absolutely the wrong move for Cleveland given the team it has and the position of the franchise for the next several years.
The main problem for Cleveland here is that it is incorrectly evaluating its own team -- the Indians shouldn't be buying, and while I could forgive them for not selling, that would be the smarter move for a team still trying to rebuild. Since a fluky 30-15 start driven largely by a schedule with more cupcakes than a Sprinkles bake shop, Cleveland is 23-36 and has been outscored by 77 runs in that span -- that is, it has been outscored by over a run and a quarter per game. Superman isn't going to close that gap, and while there are things to like about Ubaldo Jimenez, Superman he ain't.
The other problem is that it's unclear what Ubaldo they'd be getting. Jimenez looked like one of the top three or four pitchers in the National League for the first three months of 2010, but he faltered in the second half and has not fully recovered this year. His fastball velocity is down to above-average when it was previously at or near the top of the scale; I saw him in a start in 2009 when he was 95-99, and saw him again at the end of last year when he was a full grade below that, and he's sitting in the 93-94 range.
More to the point, why on earth would the Rockies trade him? They're not the Los Angeles Dodgers, fighting bankruptcy while the putative owners bleed the franchise dry. They're not the Houston Astros, headed for a long fallow period before their next crack at relevance. They're a recent playoff team that gets its next-best starter (Jorge de la Rosa) back from Tommy John surgery at some point next year and with one of the half-dozen best players in the game in Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. And they had Jimenez signed to a ridiculously club-friendly contract for the next three years (counting the club option for 2014 that evaporates with the trade). They had every reason to keep him, and the fact that they traded him for a good-but-not-revolutionary package gives me even more pause. He'd help Cleveland this year, probably adding a win or two, but that still makes the Indians a team headed to the wrong side of .500.
The best Indians prospect in the deal is lefty Drew Pomeranz, the fifth overall pick in the (weak) 2010 rule 4 draft who would be the player to be named later (Aug. 15th, to be exact, since that's one year from the date he signed his first pro contract). Pomeranz has had no trouble so far in pro ball, including three starts in Double-A after a recent promotion.
He'll mostly sit 89-94 with an out-pitch curveball in the mid- to upper 70s, and showed real improvement with the changeup when he appeared at the Futures Game earlier this month, potentially resolving one of the concerns about him coming into the year (that he might not be effective enough against right-handed hitters). Cleveland also did a good job cleaning up his arm action in the back -- he used to separate high and show the ball to the center fielder -- although even the cleaned-up version is complicated enough that I couldn't project more than average command. But a big, durable-bodied lefty with three average or better pitches is a potential No. 2 starter.
Right-hander Alex White was also a first-rounder, going 15th overall in 2009, and even at the time Cleveland executives acknowledged there was a reasonable chance he'd end up in the 'pen if he couldn't find a usable breaking ball to go with the above-average fastball and above-average or better split. White pitched well in limited time in Double-A this year, was rushed to the majors, then suffered a finger injury (not good in a guy who relies on a split-finger fastball) from which he is just returning -- but the slider still isn't an average pitch. He has shown an ability to get groundballs, especially with the splitter, which makes up for the fact that he doesn't miss a ton of bats, and can cut himself off slightly which limits his command. I see him as a two-pitch late-inning/high-leverage reliever if the slider doesn't come, but I know several teams that rate him as a No. 3 starter or even a fringe No. 2 because they're willing to project the breaking ball.
Joe Gardner is an intriguing throw-in with an average-at-best fastball who works down in the zone and has consistently produced high groundball rates in pro ball; if his control ever improves to solid-average he'd have a chance to start in Colorado because he'd suppress home runs. Matt McBride is a 26-year-old organizational corner bat.
Cleveland was two outs away from falling to .500 on the year tonight and yet is acting like a serious contender that is in win-now rather than rebuilding mode. It makes no sense, and if Jimenez can't regain the form he showed before the midpoint of 2010, then the Indians have damaged the long-term state of the franchise by trading away the entire careers of two top pitching prospects to get him.