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MLB News and Notes: Ubaldo is still expecting a big contract

MLB News and Notes: Ubaldo is still expecting a big contract
January 8, 2014
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In this MLB News and Notes segment, I will be giving occasional reports on the latest news and rumors throughout the MLB. I also will try to tweet news and rumors as I see them, so feel free to follow me on Twitter: @ajnicholsIBI.

With no major signings or trades occurring on Tuesday, there are no "Top Stories." Instead, I will give a rundown of all of the day's news and notes.

Here are the stories from Tuesday, January 7th.

News and Notes

  • According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the agents for Ubaldo Jimenez are telling teams that they still expect a multiyear deal with an annual salary of $14 million or more for their client, despite his slow developing market.
  • Tony reported Monday night that the Indians have interest in veteran Bobby Abreu, and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports confirmed that Cleveland has spoken with Abreu's agents, though no contract has been offered. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says the Indians aren't all that interested in Abreu. Currently playing in the playoffs in the Venezuelan Winter League, Abreu has hit a record five homers in five playoff games.
  • Rosenthal also reported that the new Japanese posting fee will be split up over two years. The maximum bid of $20 million will be split so that the Japanese team will get $13 million in year one, and $7 million in year two. The idea behind this split is to give more clubs a realistic shot at bidding on top Japanese talent.
  • The Dodgers and manager Don Mattingly agreed to a three-year extension.
  • Braves team president John Schuerholz told Jim Bowden on his daily radio show that Atlanta is not done making moves. Schuerholz said that general manager Frank Wren is "not done yet."
  • The Padres agreed to a Minor League contract with a Spring Training invite with Xavier Nady.
  • The Royals signed catcher Ramon Hernandez to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training.
  • Infielder Robert Andino received a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite from the Pirates.

User Comments

Joe Chengery
January 9, 2014 - 12:39 AM EST
One additional note: when I talk about not being able to sign future fixtures in the rotation with as much upside as Jimenez, I meant external free agents, not internal ones like Salazar (if he turns out as good as expected, certainly you would strongly consider putting more resources to retaining him, including signing him early and buying out a few years of free agency when the time comes).
Joe Chengery
January 9, 2014 - 12:35 AM EST
As I've mentioned before, I don't think there is that much difference between Masterson and Jimenez - even in 2013, Jimenez was more dominant than Masterson in their respective hot stretches (and Jimenez was really only bad in April; he was better in May and June, very good from July to September). Masterson faltered just as much as Jimenez did, and Masterson still didn't show the strong command he did when it came to his 2011 BB rate (which is looking more like an outlier). Speaking of outliers, Jimenez's 12 looks more and more like an outlier to his whole career if you look at his H, BB, and K rates; the same holds true for Masterson's '13, especially when it comes to his K rate (I.e., don't expect Masterson to have that high of a K rate in '14- as his career K rate is considerably lower than what it was in '13, just as his BB rate in '11 is much lower than his career BB rate). I discussed the similarities between these two in the other Ubaldo columns on the site.

Bottom line: Both pitchers come with risks, and Ubaldo will cost less than Masterson, so Ubaldo would be the easier one to sign. Plus, you can still trade Masterson for a strong package if you choose to- that's not an option with Jimenez, and I'm not sure you want to just get two 1st-rd picks for your two best pitchers after 2014, since I'm not confident they'll resign Masterson, especially since Boston will likely pursue him and his history and connections with them. Don't forget, reports suggest that Boston is not going after Tanaka, all the more reason why I think Boston is a likely destination for Masterson in 2015. The Indians' drafting is still not a strong point to think that two 1st -Rders are going to help the current Indians keep this window of contention open late in this decade, since it will be at least 2017 or 2018 before we can reasonably expect any '14 or '15 pick to make an impact for the Indians (it probably will be later than that, as 11's Lindor is not ready, and he was more on the "fast track".) There's still doubts about '08's Chisenhall, and '11's 2nd-rder Dillon Howard is leaning more and more toward being a bust, so no one can have too much confidence that those two potential picks for your two aces are going to be meaningful contributors in the future, and certainly not in 2015 or 2016 that a strong trade would likely provide, plus trading has been an area that the Indians have done better in. Plus, the Indians would take a considerable PR hit if both aces leave and you have nothing but draft picks to show for it, especially with the Indians' spotty drafting over the past 10-15 years.

Plus you'd have to rely on two of Carrasco/Bauer/Tomlin to fill the voids in the rotation long-term instead of just one (presuming both Jimenez and Masterson are gone and Salazar pans out; even if Marcum does well in '14, he's likely not a long- term fixture, just as Kazmir wasn't). Plus, you're not likely going to be able to sign long-term fixtures in the rotation in the future that have as much upside as Jimenez. Yes, he's a risk, but so is Masterson and every other starter you'd sign to a long-term deal (think Westbrook).

Bottom line: Resign Jimenez (trade Cabrera and/or Bourn if needed and a good/reasonable deal can be made), evaluate Masterson's trade value and make a strong trade if the opportunity is there. Otherwise, keep Masterson for the whole year, try to resign him if you can (but am not optimistic), offer qualifying offer, take the draft pick.

yourtribe
January 8, 2014 - 9:56 PM EST
Agree with tommy and tony on ubaldo. Don't do it.

You can average out the numbers all you want but bottom line, when was the last time he put together a very good, not great, just very good year from April through September?????????

Enough said.
Cleveland in Cali
January 8, 2014 - 6:38 PM EST
I believe the reticence shown by MLB gm's to sign Jimenez thus far suggests what many Tribe fans already know: Ubaldo is a gamble with far more downside than up. I hope the Tribe wait it out, because all it takes is one desperate GM, one untimely injury, to take this blunder off our hands. I'm far more interested to see what a full year of Callaway will do for Carrasco, Bauer, and the rest of the Tribe staff.
Seth
January 8, 2014 - 6:16 PM EST
You could sign Ubaldo without other moves. If you signed him for 3/39 and structured that as 9, 15, 15, you'd have about a $90 million payroll this year, next year you've got $19 million coming off the books with Masterson and Cabrera so you wouldn't be stuck at that level. Most of their important players are already locked in for those years. I'm somewhat ambivalent about whether it's a good idea either, if they could get him for 3/39 I would do it though. It's risky, but now is a time where they need to take financial risk.
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 5:18 PM EST
@Walter

I have the Tribe payroll at $81M right now (depends on arby cases though)....adding $14M for Ubaldo and subtracting $10M from Cabrera gets you $85M. I don't think anyone has said sign Ubaldo and not make other moves (though maybe they have). Most have said the Tribe has to be creative to sign and fit Ubaldo into the budget.
Walter
January 8, 2014 - 5:16 PM EST
I just threw that out in general in frustration. If the Indians are in play for Jimenez and the payroll for 14 is 85 million than the math does not add up.
I think many people think the Indians should spend like a big market team.
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 5:05 PM EST
I can understand that argument Tony....but giving $20M to a "star" and paying a lesser guy way less could easily blow up in your face worse than signing two very good players to $14M deals. If that star were to get hurt or regress at all you're in for a world of hurt.

Hafner deal is always going to get brought up, which is unfortunate here. Different scearnio IMO. Hafner was given his extension in the middle of a bad year (for him), where he wasn't even worth $10M...yet we felt the need to give him big money. He also didn't play a position...hit or he's useless. Ubaldo is coming off a year where he was worth more than $14M and was very good for us. He also even in a bad year at least give you value as an inning eater. Even when he struggles, will provide value.

We'll have to agree to disagree though I guess here it seems. Ubaldo to me though is more worth $45-50M than Bourn was to the Tribe.


As far as Masterson...if the choice was sign Ubaldo to a 3 year deal or extend Masterson I'd probably extend Masterson too. But if the choices are sign Ubaldo and let Masterson walk or let Masterson walk and not sign Ubaldo....I go with signing Ubaldo. I do think signing Ubaldo (without dealing Bourn) pretty much kills any chance you have of signing Masterson. While I'd love to extend Masterson and think it's possible...I'm not overly confident it happens. Worth noting too...while Ubaldo clearly has been inconsistent of late...not like Masterson has been a model of consistency himself.
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 4:54 PM EST
@Walter

Not sure who you're directing your post to exactly. But I know I have never thought the Tribe was working without a budget and don't suggest signings that I think won't fit into the budget. Hence why I have said we have to trade Cabrera to fit Ubaldo. Doing that puts you around $85M by my calcs...which is within the "budget" we have been seeing thrown around. I actually keep a running tab of all salaries for 3 years out (including arbitration estimates) as well.
Walter
January 8, 2014 - 4:31 PM EST
I cant understand why fans believe that major league professional sports owners have endless supply of money to throw around there is a limit. If we were owners of a professional team we would follow a budgeted payroll and also expect to make a profit on our investment.
Tony
January 8, 2014 - 4:21 PM EST
The economics are what they are.....but I'd rather pay a guy like Masterson $14M+ a year than Ubaldo. Or pay a star $20M a year and go cheap with a second player than pay two solid players $14M a year.

I'm just not a fan of tying up much money long term into Jimenez. For one year and $14-15M? Fine. But for 3-4 years? Nope. He's way too volatile and too much risk....and the Indians can ill afford to have a $14M a year albatross on the payroll....they just got out from under that rock with Hafner.
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 4:06 PM EST
Curious too Tony...

What if Bourn was the guy the Indians would trade, instead of Cabrera, to free up money to resign Ubaldo to $14M (or so) per year....how would that affect your stance? Or would you still be a "no" on Ubaldo?
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 4:02 PM EST
Curious about the Posting Fee being split....is that only with a max bid? Or is it always 65% of the winning bid? Or is there a "$13M max" rule for a year?

Tanaka obviously will be posted for $20M, but for future players who aren't that great (like the Aoki's, Iwamura's, etc) it could make a difference as winning bids will be less than $20M, and some less than $10M I'd imagine still.
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 3:15 PM EST
So....the Tribe should never sign a free agent ever? Cause you'll be hard-pressed to get better players than Bourn, Swisher, Ubaldo, etc for the salaries we're paying them. Economics of baseball has changed, $10-15M doesn't buy what it used too. I also don't agree with calling guys that can put up 3+ WAR low-impact types...
Tony
January 8, 2014 - 2:30 PM EST
That's the problem Hermie. Tying up all that money into low impact players. Good, solid players....but not frontline types or even borderline star types.
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 2:25 PM EST
@Tony

You could look at it that way...but don't you pretty much have that already with Cabrera, Bourn, and Swisher? Right now those 3 are averaging $12.8M and about 48% of the payroll.

Sure Cabrera was an "All-Star" type not long ago...so was Bourn though. Cabrera "only" makes $10M and not $14M but don't think that difference is reason to not sign Ubaldo.

I'm assuming though (maybe incorrectly) that you'd have to deal Cabrera to add Ubaldo (so wouldn't have all 4 on the roster). Ubaldo, Bourn, and Swisher would average about $14.1M and make about 50% of the payroll...again, don't think it's a reason to not make a move if you feel it betters the team (maybe the Tribe doesn't feel swapping Cabrera's offense for Ubaldo's pitching is worth it though).
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 2:14 PM EST
@Seth

Agree with just about everything you're saying. Definitely no way in hell do I go $80M on Ubaldo. I'd be willing to go a bit higher than your offer but not a ton and no more guaranteed years.
Tony
January 8, 2014 - 2:13 PM EST
And I am more with Tommy Lee here. Outside of a good two months to end 2013, his 2011, 2012 and most of 2013 were forgettable. That's a pretty significant chunk of his history which is hard to get over....and his good years before that was when he was throwing 4-5 MPH harder. I dunno. I'm completely on the fence with Ubaldo. I have zero faith in him and don't trust him so don't want the Indians to waste long term financial resources on him....but then I am also optimistic that he may have potentially "refound" himself. The problem with that, the only way we know if he truly is for real is to sign him to such a deal and then you just pray it works out.
Tony
January 8, 2014 - 2:10 PM EST
A $14M salary is not bad.....but the problem is when you have three players making about that amount (Jimenez, Swisher, and Bourn) and being the highest paid players on the team, neither being an "All Star" type player, and the three combining for almost half of the payroll....that's a tough pill to swallow.
Seth
January 8, 2014 - 1:08 PM EST
Hermie, the 6 fWAR in his age 27-29 seasons would be exactly why a 3-year deal in the upper 30s makes sense, but some kind of $80 million deal would make no sense. You'd have to think Ubaldo age 30-32 would be better than Ubaldo in his prime to give him more than $40 million. And by bWAR's ERA-driven measure, he was only worth 1.9 WAR in the past 3 years, so there's that.

But $14 million over multiple years doesn't sound crazy to me either, as long as it's not a lot of years. 3/42 would probably be the absolute max I'd consider for him, and I expect him to get something around that level.
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 12:13 PM EST
woops, should say that "wasn't" really his bread and butter.
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 12:13 PM EST
@Tommy Lee

While Ubaldo has lost velocity that was really his "bread and butter". He was a groundball guy in Colorado...he has become more of a strikeout guy now, as 2 of his 3 highest K-rates were in 2011 and 2013. Which is pretty interesting IMO considering the loss in velocity.

And while I do agree he is a differenct pitcher now than 4 years ago...over the last 3 seasons he's posted a 6.6 fWAR and arguably been worth $31.3M over those 3 seasons.

Want to talk outliers....2012 still stands out as the biggest one. HR/FB ratio spiked in 2012....not surprisingly, when it was at more reasonable levels in 2011 and 2013, he was worth 6.5 fWAR and nearly $31M those two years....


The team that signs him to a longterm deal may end up regretting it...can say that about any long term deal though.
Tommy Lee
January 8, 2014 - 11:47 AM EST
Regarding this "body of work" thing, you're neglecting the fact that he's not the same pitcher he was 3 years ago. He has lost 4 mph off his fastball (FanGraphs). So unless you think he's going to start throwing 96 mph again, making long-term financial commitments based on that is misguided at best.

Ubaldo with a fastball of 92mph the last 3 years (instead of 96 in years prior) is a 4.45 ERA, 1.45 WHIP with a 517/253 K/BB ratio, and that's even including his 2nd half in 2013. I think whatever team signing him should not expect too much better than that, although I do think his most recent performance is encouraging. Ubaldo's mechanics are ugly, very unconventional and complicated -- they can get out of whack easily and then you've got a situation we dealt with the majority of his time in Cleveland, which is terrible pitching.

I think any team that signs to a long-term deal will regret it. You can point to 2010 anymore because he's a very different pitcher -- he's lost a lot of velocity which was his bread and butter back then.
Jim
January 8, 2014 - 11:09 AM EST
I agree 100% Hermie. We talked about this very thing in a podcast two or three days ago. His one bad year stood out so much, that it's bled into two other seasons, and of course, that was 2012. His "body of work," which I am always big on, makes that $14 million seem palpable. The argument I made is that if we know about his numbers over the past five or six years, so does the Indians brass, and so does his agent...

I really think the Indians are at play, and if that number (years or $$) comes down even a bit, I think they'll sign him.

shout out to Steve Orbanek for catching those numbers on Sunday on the pod...for Ubaldo...
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 11:03 AM EST
I may be in the minority but I don't think an average annual salary of $14M for Ubaldo is bad at all. Arguably, only once in the last 6 seasons has he not been worth at least $14M.

More curious about how many years Ubaldo is looking for. I'm guessing at least 4 guaranteed at the moment (which I'd be very hesitant to give). If it drops to 3 though...
Hermie13
January 8, 2014 - 10:05 AM EST
Maybe it's just me but I'd much rather have signed Ramon Hernandez to a minor league deal that Mr. Misty May....

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