It has been reported that the Baltimore Orioles and pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez have agreed to terms on a four-year contract worth $48 million plus incentives. The deal comes at a strange time and at a high price. While at one time Jimenez was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, that type of production seems to be behind him.
First of all, Jimenez is 30-years-old. He looks like he’s towards the end of his prime and certainly isn’t entering it. So why did he get such a sizable contract? There are a few different reasons.
In many ways, 2013 was a bounce-back season for Jimenez while pitching for the surprisingly competitive Cleveland Indians. Before last season when he posted a very solid 3.30 ERA, Jimenez hadn’t had an ERA lower than 4.68 since 2010. His inconsistency is part of what makes the deal puzzling.
Basically, the Orioles are banking on Jimenez staying on track as he showed he could do a season ago. If they’re right then they will get their money’s worth. If they’re wrong, it could hurt an organization that needs to be competing for division titles right now. In other words, if everything works out then Baltimore gets their money’s worth. Anything less than the best case scenario will produce a disappointment.
Logistically, Jimenez got this contract because the market has set itself so that pitchers with promise will receive similar deals. Two such pitchers have received almost identical contracts to Jimenez in the past two seasons.
Last season, Edwin Jackson signed an identical deal that was worth $52 million with incentives with the Chicago Cubs. Then this offseason, pitcher Matt Garza signed another near identical deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Well, as of right now the Jackson signing looks like a disaster. His ERA last season was 4.98 and he lost more games than any other pitcher in the National League. Why then did Garza, who is a much more effective pitcher, get the same contract? It all comes down to how much an individual team values your services.
Recently, the Orioles have made it pretty clear how much they value Jimenez. Clearly, they believe that he could put them over the top. Can he? Yes, it’s possible, but such an investment is inherently risky. As the 2014 season gets underway, everyone will be able to know for sure if this signing was a good idea. Either way, it’s a risk. Only the best possible results will show that it paid off.