Although he was never a target for the Chicago Cubs (something with which I came to agree, eventually, despite earlier silliness), Ubaldo Jimenez’s eventual signing was going to have an impact on the Cubs. That’s because, together with Ervin Santana, Jimenez represents one of the alternatives on the market for a team looking to trade for a starting pitcher like Jeff Samardzija.
To that point, the Baltimore Orioles have reportedly agreed to terms with Ubaldo Jimenez on a deal that will probably wind up in the four-year, $48 million range. It’s not an altogether unreasonable deal for Jimenez, and the Orioles clearly needed to add an arm. The impact to the Cubs, obviously, is that the deal will take the Orioles out of the market for Jeff Samardzija for the time being. Although a Samardzija extension is still not off the table, if he does become a trade piece – either now or at the deadline – it was nice to have the Orioles, and their bounty of pitching prospects, available as potential trade partners.
Among the remaining suitors for Samardzija, the Blue Jays are still out there (they could actually stand to pick up two starting pitchers, and were reportedly in on Jimenez), and the Mariners could definitely use another arm or two. Even if one of those two teams picks up Ervin Santana, there will still be a need. Of course, if one gets Santana and one gets David Price, for example, the market for Samardzija – pre-season – might be dried up. The Pirates and Braves were, at one time, rumored to be interested, but we’ve not heard much on their front in a while (shouldn’t the Pirates really, really want Samardzija after A.J. Burnett spurned them for the Phillies?). The Indians may have been interested at one time, too, but that’s another older rumor. The Diamondbacks signed Bronson Arroyo earlier in the month, likely taking them out of the market.
In the end, you could still probably come up with a dozen teams that would love to add Samardzija even before the season. But, at the price the Cubs are asking, only a small number of teams could be sufficiently needy to consider making a move. For me, for now, that looks like the Blue Jays, Mariners, and maybe the Pirates. The Orioles would have been on that list, but that ends for now with the Jimenez signing. A trade, if that’s the route the Cubs go, still looks far more likely at mid-season than before the season starts.
The signing, by the way, does not impact the Cubs’ second round draft pick – although the Orioles lose their first rounder (17th), the Indians pick up a compensatory pick at the end of the first round, meaning the Cubs’ second round pick stays where it is.