On Friday morning, Cleveland Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez opted out of his $8 million club option to test the free agency waters. At 29, Jimenez is a young arm that has a lot of upside, and the Washington Nationals should at the very least give him a call.
On the current pitching staff, the Nationals have three solid pitchers locked in with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. The fourth starter is likely Ross Detwiler, but even that is up for debate and the fifth man in the rotation is a giant question mark. After the season that Dan Haren just had, it’s unlikely he’ll be back so the Nationals could hit the market or give Taylor Jordan or Tanner Roark a chance to take that final spot.
Signing Jimenez might not be a bad idea for the Nationals, especially if they want to get back to the seemingly unbeatable rotation they had in 2012. For the Indians in 2013, Jimenez pitched to a 13-9 record with a 3.30 ERA. He racked up 194 strikeouts and finished with a WHIP of 1.330.
If the Nationals put Ross Detwiler in the rotation in 2014, then adding the right-handed throwing Jimenez would mean that Washington would have three right-handed starters and two left-handed starters. The right-handers would consist of Zimmermann, Strasbug and Jimenez and having a rotation that goes Strasburg-Gonzalez-Zimmermann-Detwiler-Jimenez is only a recipe for success in Washington.
The only downside is that Jimenez won’t come cheap. Since quality starting pitching is thin in this year’s free agent class and Jimenez has already declined an $8 million offer from the Indians, the Nationals could be looking at another contract worth at or around the $13 million they paid Dan Haren in 2013.
As I wrote earlier this offseason, the Nationals aren’t exactly hurting financially. In 2014, the Nationals will enter the season $83.6 million under the luxury tax if they don’t make any big moves in free agency. With all that wiggle room, the sky’s the limit with respect to the moves they could make this offseason.
The Nationals should at the very least to give Ubaldo Jimenez a call. He’s got a few good years left in him and would be a great addition to an already solid starting rotation. The only thing that could make them avoid him would be an asking price that is too high. Even then, the Nationals have deep enough pockets where they could come to an agreement.