- Jim Bowden, ESPN Insider
For months, the Cleveland Indians were saying that they weren’t going to mortgage the future at the trade deadline. Team president Mark Shapiro said it, so did club GM Chris Antonetti, and manager Manny Acta echoed those same sentiments. However, when it got right down to it at the trade deadline, with an opportunity to acquire one of the top 30 starting pitchers in the game of baseball, the strategy changed.
In a stunning blockbuster deal, the Indians sent their top two starting pitching prospects (left-hander Drew Pomeranz and right-hander Alex White), along with first baseman Matt McBride and Double-A starter Joe Gardner, to the Colorado Rockies for ace Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez, 27, was 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA and had the highest single-season WHIP of his career (1.336) at the time of the transaction. Last year, after a 15-1 start with a 2.20 ERA, he finished the year with a 4-7 record and a 3.80 ERA after the All-Star break. His career splits include a home record of 30-19 with an ERA of 3.67, and a 26-26 record with a 3.58 ERA on the road, clearly dispelling any issues he had with pitching at Coors Field. In 2010, he represented the Rockies in the All-Star Game and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. Jimenez’s contract includes salaries of $2.8 million this year and $4.2 million next year, with club-friendly team options in 2013 (for $5.75 million) and 2014 ($8 million).
The Rockies realized they were no longer a contending team, and decided to take advantage of a marketplace filled with buyers and finally decided on the best package on the table -- the one presented by the Indians. The key figures in the deal for the Indians were Pomeranz and White.
Pomeranz, 22, was the Indians' first-round selection (picked fifth overall) in the June 2010 free-agent draft. He was moving quickly through the Indians' systems with a record of 3-3 with a 1.98 ERA combined for both high Class A Kinston of the Carolina League and Akron of the Double-A Eastern League. He has a mid-90s fastball and a plus knuckle-curve that comes in at the 12-to-6 angle. However, based on what I saw at the Futures Game, he does need to work on deception. He should develop into a solid second or third starter. Pomeranz did not sign with Cleveland after being drafted last year until the signing deadline of Aug. 16. No drafted player can be dealt until one calendar year after signing.
White, 21, was the Indians’ first-round selection (taken 15th overall) in the June 2009 free-agent draft. When he’s healthy, his fastball comes in at 88-93 mph with sink. He has a wipeout splitter as well as an average slider. He should develop into a third starter. He is presently on the 60-day disabled list with a finger ligament injury, but he is expected to have a full recovery. He was 1-0 with a 1.90 ERA in four starts at Triple-A Columbus of the Pacific Coast League at the time of the injury. Last year, he finished 10-10 with an ERA of 2.45 for both Kinston and Akron.
McBride, 26, is a right-handed-hitting first baseman who was batting .279/.339/.501 at both Akron and Columbus with a combined 15 home runs and 56 RBIs. He does not project out be an everyday player at the major league level. Gardner, a 23-year-old right-hander, was 7-9 with a 4.99 ERA in 19 starts at Akron. He projects to a long reliever in the big leagues.
In this trade, the Indians get a top-of-the-rotation starter to lead their young, solid staff that includes Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin, while they hope that veteran Fausto Carmona will start to turn it around.
The Rockies were always frustrated by Jimenez’s inability to become the No. 1 starter that he showed flashes of. They were always trying to figure out if the problems were related to health, mechanics or makeup, and finally concluded it was the latter two. To get two young potential top-of-the-rotation starters whom they’ll control for at least six years, and who won’t be eligible for salary arbitration for at least three years, was a shrewd move by Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd. Both pitching prospects are close to the major leagues and should make their debuts for the Rockies as early as September of this year.
The Indians went all-in and are trying to win the division this year with the acquisition of Jimenez. The Indians’ view is that he’s only 27 years old and a proven winner in the major leagues, and most importantly, they control him through the Year 2014. They clearly outbid every team in baseball, as reflected in their willingness to trade their two best pitching prospects.
Jimenez has always had top-of-the-rotation stuff, including two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a slider, looping curve, split-finger and changeup. His mechanics often fall apart with his shoulder flying open and his command and control have always been inconsistent in his career. When he’s locked in and focused and commanding the ball in and out of the zone, he can beat anybody on any given night. On April 17, 2010, he threw the first no-hitter in Colorado Rockies history.
The Indians get the best starting pitcher available at the trade deadline and are clearly trying to win now. The Rockies get the best package of pitching prospects at the trade deadline and are rebuilding for the future. The Indians win this trade in the short term, but the Rockies will win this trade in the long term.