Friday, July 29, 2011

Tigers Still in the Running for Jimenez

According to Danny Knobler, the Tigers are still in the running for Colorado Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.  Jimenez, who may be the best pitcher known to be on the market, has a 4.20 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 122 innings this year. He has had trouble pitching in hitter friendly Coors field where he has a 5.55 ERA compared to 2.83 on the road.  So, one would think he should benefit from moving to a new park.    

Jiminez is a ground ball pitcher who is among the top ten MLB pitchers in ground ball rate (51.%) and homers per nine innings (0.52) since 2008.  He also has a healthy 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings over that period.  On the downside, he has poor control walking 3.9 batters per nine innings.  Overall though, he would be a substantial upgrade to a staff giving them a potentially lethal 1-2-3 of Justin Verlander, Jimenez and Max Scherzer for the stretch drive and hopefully the playoffs.

Part of what makes Jimenez attractive is a very team-friendly contract through 2014. He is making just $2.8 million this year and is owed $4.2 million in 2012 with team options of $5.75 million in 2013 and 8 million in 2014.  So, why would the Rockies want to trade someone like that?  Do they know something about his health which we don't?  Should we be worried about his drop in fastball velocity from 96.1 MPH last year to 93.4 MPH this year?

Assuming he is healthy, Jimenez is going to cost a lot in terms of prospects.  That puts the Tigers at a disadvantage since they don't have a deep farm system.  They would almost certainly have to give up prized right-hander Jacob Turner and others such as third baseman Nick Castellanos.  Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski has shown in the past that he is not afraid to trade his top prospects in the right deal.

There has also been talk about trading Rick Porcello as part of a package for Jimenez, but that doesn't make a lot sense for the Tigers.  While Jimenez would probably be an upgrade over Porcello, it would still leave the Tigers without a viable fifth starter.

It doesn't seem likely that the Tigers will be able to get Jimenez given their thin farm system and given that the Red Sox and Yankees are also interested.  So, the Tigers have backup plans.  The best one is Hiroki Kuroda, who has a 3.11 ERA and 7.0/2.4 K/BB ratio for the Dodgers this year. 

Kuroda becomes a free agent after the year and would be less costly in terms of prospects. One obstacle is his no trade clause.  It seems logical that he would waive it for two months to play for a contender, but he has not indicated yet that he would do so.  Of course, the Red Sox and Yankees also want him.

Other possibilities include the oft-injured Eric Bedard, Doug Fister, Jeremy Guthrie, Aaron Harang, Jason Marquis, Brett Myers, Jeff Niemann and Wandy Rodriguez.  Once you get past the top pitchers, proven ability versus American League teams becomes more important.  Thus, Fister Guthrie and Niemann seem like better bets than some of the others.  Bedard's injury history will scare teams away as well.

There is no guarantee, but it sounds like the Tigers are determined to add a starter by the deadline.  It should be an interesting weekend. 

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