SARASOTA, Fla. – The outlook on the Orioles season changed suddenly early Monday evening, and for a change, it was for the good.
Not long after the long awaited announcement that the team signed Suk-min Yoon to a three-year contract came the news that Orioles had reached agreement with Ubaldo Jimenez on a four-year contract.
The team hasn’t officially confirmed the deal, but all signs are positive.
For months, Orioles fans had been bemoaning what they viewed as the team’s lack of aggressiveness in signing free agents. Now, with spring training underway, the Orioles have radically changed the way they do business.
They never wanted to give up a draft choice in exchange for Jimenez, who turned 30 last month, but now they’ll surrender their first pick, the 17th overall, for a pitcher with a lifetime record of 82-75 and a 3.92 ERA.
Perhaps more important, the Orioles never wanted to give a free agent pitcher a four-year contract, but now they have.
Jimenez pitched six seasons in a park that’s decidedly unfriendly to pitchers, Colorado’s Coors Field. He was 30-19 there with a 3.67 ERA, and that’s impressive.
After moving to Cleveland in July 2011, Jimenez struggled for the rest of that season and 2012, when he was just 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA. Last year, Jimenez was a sharp 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA.
He allows about eight hits per nine innings, and gives up less than a home run every nine innings, too. Jimenez can be wild, walking four every nine innings, but he strikes out twice as many.
A starting rotation of Jimenez, Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris looks competitive. Yoon who will be introduced on Tuesday, may have to settle for a bullpen job.
This also buys time for Kevin Gausman. If Gausman is ready soon, he can help out in the bullpen or it may even allow a trade.
Manager Buck Showalter can deal from a position of strength. Instead of wondering who his fifth starter is, now he has an established one in Norris.
Jimenez’s price came down, and his reported four-year, $48 million agreement was isn’t out of line with what other free agent starters of his talents received.
Thirty-one year-old Ricky Nolasco, got four years and $49 million from Minnesota. His 89-75 record is comparable to Jimenez, but his 4.37 is higher. Matt Garza, who is 10 months younger and has a 68-68 record, signed for four years and $50 million.
If there’s money left, the Orioles can try and add Kendrys Morales to plug up their DH hole. Now that they’ve given up a first-round pick for Jimenez, they could sign Morales and lose just a second-round pick.
The news is positive not only for the restive fan base, but also for the players, who saw a clubhouse favorite, Jim Johnson be traded for salary reasons. They can look and see that the club is serious about contending this season.
Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters, who the team would like to extend, can see that they’ll spend money, and that could help convince them to stay around.
If he passes the physical, Jimenez will be around for four years. Tillman has four years under club control, and Gausman and Dylan Bundy, whose recovery from Tommy John surgery is progressing nicely, can give the Orioles a nice core of starters for the next few years.
Dan Duquette was under a lot of heat for not being able to sign Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett, two older starters who signed with National League teams.
Jimenez’s deal looks good for Duquette, the Orioles, and the anxious fans.
News of Jimenez’s agreement was reported by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. The contract figures were reported by MASNsports.com.