Betting the farm
“You can’t do it,” he said. “No way.”
You see, Pomeranz, all 6-foot-5, 230-pounds of him, was considered a can’t-miss, a cornerstone, an integral part of the future. The lefty was also, however, an asset. One with exactly zero Major League innings.
Plenty of ceiling. Nothing else but projection.
Well, on Saturday night, the Indians and Rockies agreed to a major swap that sent Pomeranz, right-hander Alex White, Minor League pitcher Joe Gardner and first baseman Matt McBride to Colorado and brought star pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland. The deal is pending a physical, which was expected to be completed Sunday.
I’ve written it before and I’m not going to back away from my stance in the aftermath of all of this: I wouldn’t have traded Pomeranz for anyone. But part of my reasoning is selfish. As a baseball writer, you root for talents like that to make it so you can chronicle their rise to stardom in the bigs. Pomeranz has front-line potential and could be the type of player a team seriously regrets parting with years down the road.
But that’s down the road…
How many prospects flame out? How many suffer an injury or simply don’t live up to all the hype? More than you think. A vast majority of the time, that is the end result. So in sending Pomeranz and White to the Rockies, the Indians are taking a chance that a proven Jimenez is more of a sure thing than two “top pitching prospects.” And Cleveland isn’t wrong in rolling the dice that way.
In reeling in Jimenez, the Indians now have a rotation witht he likes of Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister, plus the crop of prospects pulling up the rear. That’s a formidable group to have in place for the next couple of seasons (we can talk about Carmona’s club option for 2012 another time).
But the Indians needed offense, you say. There is no denying that, but Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore are expected to be coming back at some point (fingers crossed) and the Tribe might have another more or two in them before today’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline expires. This was a chance to land a stud pitcher and that’s hard to pass up.
Besides, if the Indians do pull this off and make the playoffs this year, they have a rotation that is set up great for a postseason run.
As Indians closer Chris Perez said late Saturday, it’s a lot to give up, and the team might be kicking itself five years down the road, but a team can’t not make moves due to possible regrets a half-decade in the future.
Just as prospects are no sure thing, though, Jimenez is hardly a lock for roaring success, either.
He had that incredible first half a year ago, when he went 13-1 with a 1.15 ERA through June 17 en route to a start for the National League in the All-Star Game. He ended 2010 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 33 outings and placed third in balloting for the NL Cy Young Award. He threw a no-hitter on April 17 against the Braves.
Since that 13-1 opening act, however, Jimenez has been inconsistent to the point of some concern. He’s gone 15-19 with a 4.03 ERA since then and his pitch velocity has dropped. Last year, he averaged more than 96 mph with his fastball. That’s down to slightly over 93 mph this year. Granted, he dealt with some spring injuries (hip flexor, groin, thumb cuticle) that have undoubtedly played a role.
Jimenez, 27, is under contractual control through 2013 — his club option for 2014 can be voided now that he’s been traded. If anything, taking a chance by landing him in a trade shows that the Indians want to increase their chances of making the postseason in the immediate future. The window for competing certainlyhas been shortened.
And, as for the prospects given up, McBride and Gardner do not project to be impact players at the big league level. Sure, they could prove everyone wrong, but this deal was about Pomeranz and White. As for White, there is always the chance that middle finger injury he suffered in May has created cause for concern. There’s also a chance that Pomeranz’s jaw-dropping curveball doesn’t break as well through that thin Denver air.
In dealing Pomeranz and White — Cleveland’s top picks in the 2010 and 2009, respectively — the Indians are sticking by history, which says position players tend to pan out more in line with projections than pitching prospects. Second baseman Jason Kipnis and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall remain very much in the fold and a part of the future.
And, clearly, rookie general manager Chris Antonetti has now officially made his mark on the organization. This could be a move that helps the Indians make a serious run at the playoffs this year and again in 2012 and 2013, but it could also be a move that ends with Pomeranz and White leading a strong Rockies rotation.
Really, we won’t know who won this deal for a few years.
My first reaction was that Cleveland was giving up way too much for Jimenez. The more I think about the trade, however, the more I feel that it’s fair to call this an educated risk for the Indians and a good return for the Rockies.
Cleveland clearly wants to win now, and it’s hard to argue with that approach.