Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 12/27/11

As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last three years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories affecting our local sports scene. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. We started with #10 - The Colt Concussion, next was #9 -Key Cavalier Wins. We broke down the Baron Davis Trade and talked some Tribe at #7. Kirk was on the Pat Shurmur hire for #6. Yesterday, we stuck with that Browns theme and discussed the big draft day deal involving Julio Jones and Phil Taylor (#5). Today we will go back into the Red, White, and Blue.

#4 – Ubaldo Jimenez Comes to Cleveland, Signaling the Indians Want to Win Now

Right around the Major League Baseball trade deadline, the Indians were locked in a battle for the AL Central lead with the Detroit Tigers. They were so banged up offensively and really needed a big bat, preferably from the right side, for the middle of the order. What nobody knew at the time was that the Indians had a different plan. Yes, they needed a bat, but an opportunity came open that they felt they had to make.

Ubaldo Jimenez, a former 19-game winner, under team control for two and a half more years at age 27 but struggling since his uber-hot 2010 first-half, was on the trading block. The Colorado Rockies were concerned that Jimenez was hung up about not getting a long-term extension and decided the time was right to seek out a deal. Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd found a willing dance partner with the Indians. GM Chris Antonetti had two things on his mind – finding himself a season-changing top of the rotation pitcher in his prime, and   though not stated aloud, proving to Indians fans that the organization was committed to winning NOW. Not just in the future, but NOW.

Antonetti decided to take a leap of faith. So he went for it. He dealt the Indians top two pitching prospects, former first round picks Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, along with two other minor leaguers to the Rockies for Jimenez.

After the deal was made, this was my initial take.

Yes, the Indians gave up two of their four “untouchables” in this trade in Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, but this wasn’t for a one year guy. Jimenez, who you cannot forget was the best pitcher in baseball the first half of 2010 when he went 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA, is the true #1 pitcher the Indians crave. Its clear that the Antonetti regime is the antithesis of the John Hart big bats/average starters/great bullpen era.

Pitching wins championships. There is no doubt about that. Now the Indians have a rotation set for the next two and a half to three years (if they choose) that will have Jimenez and Justin Masterson at the top, followed by steady Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, and Fausto Carmona. If the 27-year old Jimenez’s road splits (3.38 ERA) show the truth about him outside of Denver’s Coors Field, the the Tribe could be in business.

In a short series in October, nobody is going to want to have to face Jimenez and Masterson if both are on their game. However, if Jimenez is a flop, this will cost the organization dearly and Antonetti could be looking for work elsewhere.

I still believe that to be true today on December 27th. Antonetti saw a two-year plus window with the group he has under team control  and felt as if they would be better served with what they know (Jimenez) that what they don’t (White and Pomeranz). The thing is, after what they saw with Jimenez once he came over from Colorado, they may not know what to make of him.

He had a couple of good starts, and a whole bunch of inconsistent ones where he was a five and fly guy. The one thing you do know about Jimenez is that he is a high strikeout guy. His health, on the other hand, is a different story. Many thought the Indians were getting damaged goods. I mean, why exactly would the Rockies be so willing to dump their ace, who was under their control for two and a half more years at a very reasonable salary. His velocity was down a few MPH’s and with his violent delivery, Jimenez looks to potentially be an arm/shoulder injury waiting to happen. The Indians medical staff checked him out thoroughly in Arizona and he passed with flying colors, or at least that is what we were told.

Whatever happens in the next two years with Jimenez may shape the fortunes of the team. With Masterson and Jimenez at the top of the rotation, the Indians should be tough to beat. Antonetti put himself in quite a pickle with this deal. He was applauded by some Tribe fans for doing what they wanted for some many years – playing to win now. On the other side was a faction of fans who complained that he gave up too much for Jimenez, considering all the hype surrounding Pomeranz and White.

You can’t have it both ways, people.

I for one give Antonetti a ton of credit for pulling this off, despite the mixed results in 2011 from Ubaldo. Though he struggled at times (4-4, 5.10 ERA in 11 starts), White was lit up badly in Colorado (2-4, 8.42 ERA in seven starts) while Pomeranz made his Major League debut in September (2-1, 5.40 ERA, four starts).

The jury on this trade will be out for years.

 

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