Last year, the Colorado Rockies would have been considered insane if they entertained trade talk about Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez was 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA when he started the All-Star Game for the National League. When baseball executives discussed the best pitchers in the Major Leagues, his name was mentioned prominently.
But, these days, the Rockies have said they are willing to listen to offers on Jimenez. Jimenez’s production has dropped since that brilliant first half in 2010 and he is said to be disenchanted with the Rockies because of his team-friendly contract. Suddenly, the Rockies have publicly acknowledged that Jimenez could be acquired if a team overwhelmed them with a proposal.
As the Yankees monitor Jimenez’s situation, they have scoffed at the idea of being the club that surrenders four elite prospects for the 27-year old. Dan O’Dowd, the Rockies’ general manager, told The Denver Post that the team would need to make “a Herschel Walker” trade to move Jimenez. The Dallas Cowboys traded Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for a bushel of players and draft picks, which helped revive the organization.
When I mentioned the Herschel Walker scenario to general manager Brian Cashman, he simply said, “We’re not going to do anything stupid.”
According to Sports Illustrated’s website, the Rockies would want Ivan Nova, Manny Banuelos, Jesus Montero and Dellin Betances from the Yankees for Jimenez. There is no way the Yankees will give up four of their best young players for the right-hander. Cashman listed Montero, Betances, Banuelos and Austin Romine as prospects he has “no inclination to trade.”
But the Yankees have internally discussed how they could use another starter, preferably a left-hander who could help them neutralize the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees aren’t enthused about Wandy Rodriguez, a lefty who is 6-6 with a 3.67 ERA for the Houston Astros. While Cashman thinks the Yankees “definitely have enough” pitching “to get in the playoffs,” he also knows there are some concerns. After CC Sabathia, the Yankees don’t have a definitive No. 2 starter. There are doubts about all of the current candidates.
Bartolo Colon, who has been the Yankees’ second-best starter, was trampled for eight runs in his last start, has been plagued by a hamstring injury and must prove that he’s not fading. A.J. Burnett, who was supposed to be the No. 2 man after Sabathia, lost that distinction during a dreadful 2010. He has pitched much better this season, but the Yankees can’t risk putting him behind Sabathia. Like Colon, Freddy Garcia has to show he’s not operating on fumes. Phil Hughes won his first game of the season in his last start, but it’s too early to know how effective he will be for the rest of 2011.
The doubts about the starters are why the Yankees have been linked to Jimenez. With the July 31 non-waiver deadline approaching, the Yankees will undoubtedly be connected to other pitchers as well. In 2009, the Yankees were hunting for a starter. Cashman reacted by acquired Chad Gaudin, a back of the rotation type, from the San Diego Padres because he thought the prices for pitchers were too high. Cashman cited that example to intimate that it could happen again.
“If the prices stink,” Cashman said, “I’m not going there.”
By even acknowledging that Jimenez is available, some baseball executives said that the Rockies have devalued their pitcher. Jimenez will make $4.2 million in 2012 and there are club options for $5.75 in 2013 and $8 million in 2014, which is a sweet deal for the Rockies. The Rockies know Jimenez better than anyone. If the Rockies thought that Jimenez would return to his form from 2010, why would they trade him? Sure, the Rockies would snare several prospects, but Jimenez is supposed to be a sure thing. Prospects never are.
“It tells me that they’re tired of him,” said one Major League executive. “That’s a red flag.”
Jimenez is 5-8 with a 4.08 ERA and averages eight strikeouts and 3.5 walks per game. Nova, who is at Class AAA Scranton, was 8-4 with a 4.12 ERA and averaged five strikeouts and 3.6 walks per game while with the Yankees and in a better offensive league. This isn’t to suggest that Nova is better, but it’s more evidence for the Yankees to digest as they consider their options.
Since the Yankees have been willing to trade Montero in the past, it is likely that he would be included in a trade. If the Yankees dealt one of their better pitchers, they would surrender Nova ahead of Banuelos or Betances. Could Montero and Nova and two other prospects that aren’t named Banuelos or Betances be enough to satisfy the Rockies? If the Rockies are fixated on getting Banuelos, Betances, Montero and Nova, the Yankees will not engage them. Perhaps the Rockies will wait until the offseason and try and get a stash of players then.
Even though Cashman emphasized that he doesn’t like to “give up my young talent,” he added that ownership might feel differently and could overrule him. The Yankees always have the mandate of winning a World Series title. To have the best chance of doing that in 2011, it would help the Yankees to have a legitimate No. 2 starter.
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