Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yankees Seeing Red Flags In Ubaldo Jimenez Deal?

Colorado Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has become a very hot commodity in the AL East these days.  The New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have all considered a trade for the flame-throwing hurler, according to reports.  Only now, the Yankees are wondering why the young (27) and relatively inexpensive ($2.8 million contract this year, $4.2 million in 2012 with an option in 2013 for $5.75 million) ace of the Rockies is being unloaded.

Does the Rockies organization know something about Jimenez that others don't?

Jimenez is regarded as the best starter available before the July 31st deadline.  Other pitchers like Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers of the Houston Astros are out there but don't have the numbers or name recognition of Jimenez and the Seattle Mariners Felix Hernandez is off-limits to anyone, according to the organization.

The red flags being thrown up by Jimenez begin with his second half slump last season after starting the season 15-1.  He finished the season by going 4-7 down the stretch.

At the 2010 All-Star break, Jimenez was considered one of the best starters in the game until it seemed his fastball seemed to fade quicker than his CY Young hopes.

This season, the rightie is 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 122 innings.  After a slow start, Jimenez is 5-4 since June 18.

Sure the Rockies are asking a lot in return for their pitcher and that has already pretty much scared off the division-leading Red Sox.  The second-place Yankees may follow. Toronto is just hoping for a steal a deal for the future.

New York is balking at the Rockies asking price of three prized minor-leaguers-- Manuel Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Jesus Montero.  Even Ivan Nova's name has been thrown into the mix.  No way that's going to happen.

Why the Yankees are hesitant to give away some prospects for a stud like Jimenez--who could give them the 1-2 punch they desire-- isn't apparent as it looks.  His age and past history don't include any major breakdowns--physically or mentally.  Jimenez's only time on the DL was for a broken fingernail-- not exactly career-ending-- and has never had any shoulder or elbow injuries that the Yankees are aware of.

One of Jimenez's flaws is his wildness and a high-maintenance throwing delivery.  The fact that he is a product of the NL is a negative too.  The Yankees have had previous problems with pitchers who switched leagues. Randy Johnson and Carl Pavano come to mind.

Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd has said his team is willing to trade Jimenez only because they underachieving and it's time shake some life into the roster.  The GM also cited the lack of other blue-chip starters on the market and trade-bait like Jimenez will bring the Rockies a high return.

He may be thinking a Bernie Madoff type exchange.

Some experts think Jimenez's problem is emotional, and he is bitter at the Rockies for not signing him to a long term deal like teammates Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

Another reason the deal should send flags up all over.  Why wouldn't a team sign their ace to a long-term contract in the first place?

"Even if this is his floor, then he is still good enough to pitch in a rotation in the AL East," said an executive that inquired about Jimenez.  "He has value at that level, especially with a good contract.  And if he pitches like he pitched the first half last year, then he's up there with CC [Sabathia, [Jon]Lester and [David] Price among the best pitchers in the division."

Whether or not Jimenez is good enough to be a No. 2 pitcher on the Yankees is debatable.  A.J. Burnett is such a significant drop-off from the No. 1 starter, CC Sabathia, there is definitely an opening for that role. One problem, Jimenez's wildness has a vaguely familiar A.J. ring to it.

The Yankees rotation could be firmed up this afternoon.  Phil Hughes gives it another shot to see if his dead arm issues are over.  Hopefully, the third time is a charm for the struggling righthander and a successful outing would give the Yankees a good inventory of arms while Ivan Nova goes on Saturday.

So far the Yankees haven't been pushing GM Brian Cashman to make a deal before the deadline.  After CC and A.J., the starting rotation is hanging on to the rejuvenated arms of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia-- who knows how long they can hold out--and rehabbing Hughes and Nova.

 If Cashman does push the button for Jimenez, it could come at too high a price. 

Today, the Yankees GM will just watch his real trade deadline Holy Grail, Seattle Mariners Felix Hernandez, face his team at Yankee Stadium.

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