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Pirates Should Take A Long Look At Ubaldo Jimenez

Ubaldo Jiminez would be Ray Searage's biggest challenge to date Photo by Joy R. Absalon/USA Today Sports

Ubaldo Jiminez would be Ray Searage’s biggest challenge to date
Photo by Joy R. Absalon/USA Today Sports

Most teams wouldn’t see opportunity in a 1 and 1/3 inning spring training debut that yielded five earned runs, two walks and two hit by pitches as an opportunity. Of course, only one team has Ray Searage.

After a strong 2013 campaign for the Indians, the owner of the above pitching line, Ubaldo Jimenez, signed a 4 yr/$50M dollar deal with Baltimore. While he wasn’t terrible, he failed to live up to expectations by posting a 4.81 ERA in only 125 innings of work. Following a less than stellar debut that landed him in mop up duty by the end of the season, the media will have you on a short leash. When you get roughed up in your Grapefruit opener that will make it even shorter. Talking heads seem to suggest he might return to the pen again this year making him not only the highest paid pitcher in Orioles franchise history, but the highest paid middle reliever as well. The O’s likely have five guys more reliable than him in Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez. That’s not even counting the potential return of Dylan Bundy to the mix.

As they say, one man’s trash, that’s another man’s come up. Enter the Pirates who know a thing or two about shopping at the Grapefruit League thrift shop, by trading for and rebuilding out-of-favor starters two of the last three offseasons. The results have been impressive with the acquired pitchers eating a combined 401 innings, 468 strikeouts, and 8.4 fWAR for around $13.5 million in salary and a couple of low upside, low A prospects. That’s not even counting what Vance Worley could still do as a Pirate. The other trade acquisition, AJ Burnett, liked the Buccos’ magic so much he ate $4 million just to come back and get another try.

Pitching coach Ray Searage is beginning to develop a reputation of restoring pitchers to their former value. On top of the trade acquisitions, Searage and the Pirates’ front office also have the Francisco Liriano and Edison Volquez successes as feathers in their cap. Both came to the organization as inconsistent starters whose stuff far and away surpassed their results. Both earned eight figure per year salaries this past offseason.

Jimenez seems like the best of both groups. He’s a once-elite starting pitcher who does not look like he has a clear place with his current club, like Vanimal and Burnett, and the issues he’s had seem in line with the issues of Volquez and Liriano. His problems are problems the Pirates have tackled in the past. At his best, Jimenez walked over a batter less per nine innings and had a ground ball rate up over 50%. That’s not to say he pitched to contact as he still managed to get over eight strikeouts per nine. He generated the weak stuff while missing bats. He managed six straight seasons with 175 or more innings, topping the 200 mark twice.

A trade could be a good fit for both clubs. The Pirates are still a solid #3 away from an elite or even top rotation. An in-form Jimenez would get them there and then some. The Orioles are a small market team playing in a big market division. They simply cannot afford to piss away salary on a player who isn’t working.

It’s gotten to a point where we just expect Searage to fix everything that comes his way. However, it’s important to note that there is some risk involved. Orioles might be willing to be patient with Jimenez, but they might also be interested in salvaging some of the $38.75 million still owed on the contract. In order to get the Pirates or anyone else to take him off their hands, they’d need to eat some of that salary, maybe even around half. Even then, they still shouldn’t expect much of a return in the way of prospects. Maybe the Pirates could send back one of the Stevens (Tarpley or Breault) acquired in the Travis Snider deal? Of course, any trade would take some salary off their plate and give them more flexibility moving forward.

When you’re good at something, you should always look for opportunities to play to your strength. The Pirates are good at reclaiming lost pitchers. Jimenez represents another opportunity to do just that. The Pirates need to look to find value everywhere while the Orioles need to be shrewd with their spending. This could be a deal of two small markets looking out for each other as the risk would be spread over two franchises.

Steve is a naturalized yinzer hailing originally from just north of Allentown, PA. He came to Pittsburgh to attend Duquesne University and decided to stick around after graduation. Steve is best known for his contributions to Duquesne hoops community as the owner of the Duquesne Dukes forum on Yuku and as the former editor of We Wear the Ring on the Fansided network. He is an avid Pirates fan, home cook and policy nerd. He is the co-founder of the Point of Pittsburgh. Easily irritated by people who misuse the word regress.

4 Comments on Pirates Should Take A Long Look At Ubaldo Jimenez

  1. Long look, sure. But where does he go? The Pirates have 6 SPs who are out of options (or, at least reasonably are not going to be sent to the minors). Given Cole, Liriano, and Burnett as the top three, Ubaldo would have to take the place of either Morton, Worley, or Locke. Let’s just say Morton finds his way onto the DL to start the year…you’d still have to account for one of the others or get nothing for them. I think Jimenez has much more upside than Locke or Worley…but if they are not on the 25, they are gone. So is Jimenez good enough to not only upgrade, but lose the potential depth? The bullpen is already crowded (and not well-suited for Locke). So given infinite roster flexibility, I would love for the Bucs to look at Jimenez. But given the current situation, I don’t see how he fits.

  2. Hasn’t his average velocity dropped, like, three straight years? If that’s the case, no thank you. And that’s coming from someone who looooved Ubaldo.

  3. Steve DiMiceli // March 8, 2015 at 1:41 AM //


    I honestly think you could consider sending him to the minors to fix him. I doubt anybody’s picking up his full salary right now and Jimenez certainly isn’t walking away from it.


    The velocity has dropped but with his K/9 still over 8. I’m not really that worried about it.

  4. Jimenez does not have a starting point of mechanics that can be fixed through Searage’s normal program. He is an unorthodox pitcher, and would pose an exceptionally difficult task as a reclamation project. I stay away from this one for now. If we’re at the same place next year, and the Pirates don’t have a replacement for Burnett, then I could see entertaining this as an option.

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