Survey: What Do Cleveland Indians Analysts Think of Ubaldo Jimenez Trade?

From the minute that news broke that the Cleveland Indians were sending a package of prospects highlighted by Drew Pomeranz and Alex White to the Colorado Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez, it seemed like everyone had a strong opinion about the deal. But there was no consensus on how fans felt about the trade.

Strong arguments were made both in favor of the trade—pitching prospects often don’t work out, and in Jimenez the Indians get a top-of-the-line starter for two-and-a-half years—and against it—getting a pitcher wasn’t as important as landing an impact hitter, and the deal constituted exactly the kind of “mortgaging the future” that we’d vowed not to do.

With so many Tribe faithful—myself included—changing their minds or harboring mixed feelings about the deal, it’s been hard to get a read on what Cleveland fans think of the deal. At least, until now.

Late last week, I sent a survey about the Jimenez deal to some of the best Indians writers and analysts in the blogosphere. Twenty writers (representing nine different sites) offered their opinions on the biggest trade of the season—and the results were fascinating. (Note: all but one respondent weighed in prior to Jimenez’ Indians debut Friday night.) 

By and large, reaction to the deal seems to be fairly positive. The 19 respondents who offered letter grades to the Jimenez trade combined for a 3.25 GPA—Indians Gab‘s Matt Loede and Deep Left Field‘s Steve Kubitza were the most generous, offering ‘A’ grades, while “The Coop” was the most pessimistic, giving the deal a ‘D+’.

The median grade was a B+, and only two writers graded the deal a C+ or worse. That might not be enough to make the honor roll, but at the very least consensus seems to be that the trade was worthwhile. The Tribe Daily‘s Nino Colla summed up the sentiment well: “It was a steep price, but considering that you get and how friendly his deal is, it is a fair price compared to other pitchers who get dealt.”

A few more specific follow-up questions support the high grades: 84% of respondents said acquiring Jimenez was a good way to improve the team, and 74% said the package of prospects the Indians gave up was a fair price to pay. More than two-thirds of participants said Jimenez makes Cleveland a significantly better team this year, and all but one said he will give the Indians a big boost in 2012-13—including 67% who “strongly” agreed.

That said, most of the writers seemed to have some reservations about the deal. Three-quarters of respondents said they were concerned either that the Indians gave up too much or that they should have traded for a hitter, and only 45% said that acquiring Jimenez was “the right choice” for a deadline deal.

But the most interesting result was that people seem to have become more optimistic about the trade as they’ve had time to consider it. Asked to indicate grades for the deal as they would have assigned them when they first learned about it, the GPA was just 2.39—nearly a full letter grade lower than what they said after they’d had time to think about it. The median grade was only a C+, and a whopping 74% of respondents graded the deal higher when they took the survey than they would have when the news broke. No one’s opinions changed for the worse.

In addition to answering the questions I posed, many writers offered extended explanations of their opinions, be they for, against, or somewhere in between.

Waiting for Next Year‘s Andrew Schnitkey was one of the most bullish supporters of the deal. Jimenez is “a legit #1 starter, he’s young, he has an awesome contract for the Indians, and he’s able to help the Indians now,” he said. “I’ve grown weary of waiting for prospects to develop only to become flops once they get up to the bigs. I applaud moving these pieces to get some help for the team now.”

SABR Tribe‘s David McGarry was also optimistic, saying that Cleveland is “ahead of the curve when it comes to not overvaluing pitching prospects.” Bleacher Report‘s Jim Piascik agreed, calling the deal “a very smart calculated gamble.” Meanwhile, Brian from Cleveland Sports Torture noted that, if the Indians’ plans to remain in contention doesn’t work out, Jimenez “could be a valuable trade asset in the future.”

On the other hand, Bleacher Report‘s Samantha Bunten sees the perceived favorability of the trade as ominous. “It just looked, at least on paper, to be too good of a deal,” she said. “Jimenez was signed to a very team-friendly contract, so why was Colorado so willing to give him up?…I have concerns that we’re going to find out down the road that they gave up too much.”

Another skeptic, Dale Thomas, noted Jimenez’ losing record and mid-4.00′s ERA and asked: “How can this be good?” Meanwhile, Indians Prospect Insider‘s Lianna Holub called the deal as lopsided as the Bartolo Colon trade (in which Cleveland received Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Cliff Lee)—but this time the Indians got the short end of the stick.

Still, it seems as though Indians analysts’ (myself included) opinions of the deal are generally favorable, especially compared to our initial gut reactions. Of course, it will be years before we will be able to properly assess the trade, but in the meantime we can still debate.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey!

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