To be clear, I’ve never said that Ubaldo Jimenez is a great fit for the Chicago Cubs to sign this offseason. The first year of his deal would probably be wasted on the Cubs, and he’s no lock to be great after that first year (he’s hardly a model of consistency). I recognize the loss of velocity. I recognize the potentially deep pool of pitching talent available next year. I know the Cubs have to be judicious in how they use their dollars right now.
All I’ve ever said is that, if Jimenez’s market collapses as the season approaches, there is the potential for his price to fall into the “surplus value” zone. That is particularly true for teams that do not have to give up a first round pick to sign him, like the Cubs. Rumors have his price tag already falling into the three-year, $39 million range, which doesn’t look too bad.
After all, Jimenez was brutally bad in 2012, when he was adjusting to life as a pitcher without superior velocity anymore. But last year he was worth 3.2 WAR. From 2008 through 2011, he was worth 3.9, 5.6, 6.5, and 3.3 wins. Last year, his ERA was 3.30, his FIP was 3.43, his xFIP was 3.62, and he struck out 9.6 per 9 while walking 3.9 per 9.
Three years and $39 million for that guy? In this market? Even after surrendering a second rounder and knowing that 2014 won’t be a great year for the Cubs? Yeah, I’m still thinking it looks like a good deal.
… but then FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan took a massive dump on my interest in Jimenez on a bargain deal. It’s amazing how presenting the same information in different contexts can make you think again. Read Sullivan’s piece to get that context, but here are a couple short snippets:
To just get right to the point: Jimenez made his 24th start on August 17th, in Oakland. He finished with a 4.00 ERA and a 4.33 FIP, and he’d averaged about 1.8 strikeouts per walk. Three of five pitches had gone for strikes. Batters had reached against him at a .335 clip. The average AL starter last year threw 63.5% of pitches for strikes. Jimenez had reached or exceeded that rate in five games out of 24 ….
Here, in order, are Jimenez’s final eight opponents from last August and September:
Woof. As Sullivan points out, that Braves lineup didn’t feature Jason Heyward or Freddie Freeman, and included a pitcher. The Orioles weren’t terrible, but that’s about it. It’s a mix of horrible, horrible lineups (most of them in September, mind you), and those eight starts accounted for the vast majority of Jimenez’s success in 2013. I knew Jimenez’s season found a great deal of its strength in the second half, but I didn’t realize it was quite this stark.
I don’t like to read one thing about a guy and completely change my position, but this is about as close as it comes for me.
In the end, this is almost entirely academic, since the odds the Cubs go after Jimenez – even on a bargain deal – are quite small. Instead, you can expect them to nab someone like Jason Hammel or Paul Maholm, and proceed into 2014 with an eye on the free agent market at that time.