Orioles’ Waiting Results In Ubaldo Jimenez

There is that old saying about patience being a virtue. Dan Duquette showed that virtue all winter by not overspending or overreaching for players who brought minimal gains. Now, it appears that the winter of waiting finally brought something substantial to Baltimore. Earlier this evening, reports came out that the Orioles and Ubaldo Jimenez have come to terms on a four year, $50 million contract. The contract will become official once the 30 year old passes the physical. For the Orioles, the acquisition of Jimenez was important. While he doesn’t make them a World Series favorite, he does make them playoff contenders. With a core of a team that can stay intact for the next two years, going all in was necessary.

{Discuss the Jimenez deal on the BSL Boards}.

Obviously, the loss of the 17th overall pick will be discussed, but the Orioles are at the point where they can no longer wait for the system to develop. Having a sustainable farm system is very important to long term success, but exceptions have to be made. This is one of those times. The organization has done fairly well in recent years with developing young pitching. Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Eduardo Rodriguez, Hunter Harvey, Tim Berry, and Mike Wright all look to have bright futures. But, that doesn’t help the team this season. And, with so many questions surrounding each team in the American League East, the Orioles needed to upgrade in order to have a chance.

Additionally, the contract is more than reasonable, which offsets the loss of a draft pick substantially. For around $11 to $12 million per season (there is some deferred money involved), the Orioles are getting a pitcher who has put together seasons of at least 3.3 WAR in five of his six full seasons. For less than a qualifying offer, the Orioles are signing a pitcher through the rest of his prime seasons and who has succeeded in one of the toughest pitching parks in the sport.

Jimenez is not an ace; he isn’t being paid like one. He  has shown an ability to lead a rotation and should fit nicely into any of the top three spots for the Orioles. The two red flags with Jimenez are his control and, perhaps, his velocity. His career walk rate of 10.5 percent is quite high. Even during his excellent 2013 season, he compiled a 10.3 percent walk rate. Control has always been an issue and it is a valid concern considering his poor 2011 and 2012 seasons. His velocity has decreased in three consecutive seasons, culminating in a fastball that averages 91.5 MPH. While no longer throwing 96 MPH is a concern, Jimenez has had minimal physical problems. And, he posted one of his best seasons last year with the career low velocity.

The other red flag that is discussed is his pitching delivery. Many speculate that Jimenez’s mechanics are quite poor. That speculation is just that…speculation. The truth is that nobody, not even the best pitching coaches, can eyeball a pitcher and say with exactitude that a pitcher’s mechanics will lead to injury. For the Orioles, this concern is a bit minor as they are one of the few organizations that give each pitcher a biomechanical analysis. This science will give the Orioles’ staff the scientific reading of Jimenez’s delivery flaws.

Jimenez helps cover many of the weaknesses of the 2013 Orioles pitching staff. Despite winning 85 games last season, the Orioles ranked 13th in the American League in eliciting strikeouts and had just two pitchers give more than 150 innings. In retrospect, Buck Showalter should be given the Manager of the Year Award for getting 85 wins from a team that had 14 different pitchers start a game. While they do field an elite defense, that disproportionate amount of balls put into play puts far too much pressure on a defense. With the defense a year older, there has to be some expected regression. Adding a pitcher who can strikeout hitters is quite important. Despite his ups and downs, he has pitched at least 176 innings each season since 2008. And, he has a career 21.5 percent strikeout rate. Last year, in his resurgence from a bizarre season and a half slump, he posted a strikeout rate of 25 percent. Even during his lost 2012 season, he posted a 17.8 percent strikeout rate.

The concerns about pitching in the American League East and in Oriole Park should be quelled by the fact that Jimenez thrived in Colorado, a notoriously unforgiving park for pitchers. With the exception of that 2012 season, which was spent entirely in Cleveland, Jimenez has never had trouble with the home run ball. His 2013 rate of 0.8 HR/9 innings was nearly identical to his career rate of 0.7 HR/9. This has everything to do with the fact that Jimenez generates ground balls at a career rate of 47.6 percent. That plays into the Orioles’ strength as their infield saved 41 runs according the defensive runs saved metric. With an elite defender at third and a very good defender at shortstop, Jimenez should benefit from the Orioles’ elite defense as much as they benefit from his strikeout ability.

Much of the concern with Jimenez stems from that bizarre second half of 2011 and all of 2012 where he compiled a 5.25 ERA over 42 starts. And, his detractors will point out that much of his current value is based on his 12 starts during the second half of 2013 that saw him post a 1.72 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 76 innings of work. In a larger view, both are small sample sizes. There is no doubt that he struggled over 42 starts, but that is just a segment of his career. He made adjustments and rebounded before getting insanely hot during the second half of 2013. In 212 career starts, Jimenez has proven to be durable, a strikeout pitcher, a pitcher who generates ground balls, and a pitcher who elicits swings and misses with pitches thrown for strikes 13 percent of the time.

At age 30, the prospect of being a star is no longer on Jimenez’s resume. He isn’t a star. He isn’t being paid like one. His contract is very similar to those signed by Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza. Of the three, Jimenez has the best chance of fulfilling the contract because comes with the least amount of injury and performance risks.

Once the deal becomes official, the Orioles will now have some depth. Chris Tillman, Jimenez, and Wei-Yin Chen will occupy the first three slots of the rotation, with Miguel Gonzalez likely winning the fourth spot. That leaves the fifth spot (and even the fourth spot is no guarantee to Gonzalez) to be the winner of Bud Norris, Suk-min Yoon, and Kevin Gausman. A team can never have enough pitching so these options are quite optimal in that injuries will have a quality option to step in. And, if everyone stays healthy, the bullpen benefits from either Norris or Yoon. Additionally, this takes the pressure off of Gausman. If he happens to win the job it will be because of an incredible performance not because he was better than the average. Now, when Gausman joins the rotation, he will be ready.

From here, the Orioles should be done with their shopping. Some may clamor for Ervin Santana as well, but given his trouble with the home run ball and consistency concerns, he would be a poor investment. If there is room in the budget for another player, perhaps the Orioles look for a hitter such as Kendrys Morales, who would lengthen the lineup and cost a second round pick. But, in Jimenez, Dan Duquette has addressed the Orioles’ main performance weaknesses, given the rotation options, and has added a pitcher that makes them better. He does it at a value considering the contracts handed out this winter.

The slow winter of the Orioles was at times frustrating and even absurd at other times. But, it ends with a signing that makes the team better and for less than it would have cost at the beginning of the winter. In this respect, Duquette played the market perfectly. He improved the team, didn’t overspend, and got one of the better players available on the market. Good things come to those who wait. Duquette waited and made a quality upgrade. The 2013 Orioles are better now than they were at the start of the winter. Ubaldo Jimenez, even though he isn’t a star, makes the rotation better. There are certainly questions, but whether or not he makes the Orioles a better team isn’t one of them.

Share this post on
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • Google Buzz
  • Posterous
  • Tumblr

About the author


Gary Armida  

Gary Armida is a Father to the best little girl in the world. After that, he is a writer who has been covering Major League Baseball since 2007. During that time, Gary operated FullCountpitch.com, one of the first independent online sites that gained Major League Baseball media credentials. Over the years, he has covered two Winter Meetings and has written feature articles for a variety of outlets while interviewing Major League personnel such as Rick Peterson, Jason Giambi, Zack Wheeler, Jeff Luhnow, Jack Zduriencik, Michael Bourn, and many others. In addition to his work at BSL, Gary contributes to USA Today Sports Weekly and maintains his personal site, garyarmida.com, that serves as his portfolio as well as a place for additional content.


This entry was posted in Baltimore Orioles and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>