Enough is enough.
It’s time for the Baltimore Orioles to admit their mistake and move on.
When the O’s decided to sign Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract in early February 2014, immediately I knew it was going to be an awful decision.
All signs pointed that it was going to be a bad decision.
Despite one really good season in Colorado, he has been the definition of an average-at-best player his entire career.
He owns an above .500 record for just one of the three teams he’s pitched for in his career, and hasn’t thrown a complete game since early 2011 when he still pitched for the Colorado Rockies.
In 2012, his first full year in Cleveland, he pitched to just a 9-17 record with a 5.40 ERA through 31 starts. And since 2010, which includes his stellar year in Colorado, Jimenez is just 71-72.
Worse than all of that, though, has been how he has pitched this year for Buck Showalter’s club.
Through his first 11 starts, the Nagua, Dominican Republic-native is just 2-6 and has an abysmal 6.59 ERA. And entering his start Thursday against the Boston Red Sox he ranked last amongst AL starters in WHIP (1.87) and his earned-run average, which worsened in the outing, was third-to-last.
Three times this year he hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning, and in eight of his 11 starts he has failed to record an out in the sixth inning.
Jimenez is on pace to finish 2016 with a 6-18 record, his worst season in terms of hits and runs allowed, as well as one of his worst seasons in terms of strikeouts.
The question becomes what can the Orioles do?
Financially they are in a bit of a bind.
All of Jimenez’s contract is guaranteed money, according to spotrac, and with the amount of money he’s owed increasing every year of the contract ($11.25M in 2014, and $13.5M in 2017) it will be hard to get rid of him from that perspective.
The team recently demoted Mike Wright to the minors after a string of bad starts, and there is growing noise that they could do the same to Jimenez. That would certainly make me – and a lot of other Orioles fans – happy, but at the end of the day the team is still paying him $13 million both this year and next.
Add in the fact that the Orioles star infielder Manny Machado is arbitration eligible each of the next two years – and with likely price tag on Machado once he hits free agency following the 2018 regular season trending towards $400M –, it may be a nice idea for the club to try locking him up long term while he’s still team property.
For Orioles fans, it’s sadly very unlikely that Baltimore decides to just eat the remaining money in the contract and cut Jimenez.
Though, for the optimistic Baltimore fanatics, there are two “best-case scenarios” to dream about when your head hits the pillow every night.
Scenario A: Jimenez is sent down to Triple-A for a while to refine his mechanics, and if/when he returns to the big leagues this year, he improves and helps the O’s win a few games.
Scenario B: Baltimore becomes spenders at the trade deadline, and packages Jimenez in a trade that will hopefully bring the missing piece of the puzzle to Baltimore that will clinch a playoff spot for the Birds. (*Note: Scenario B would likely involve Baltimore still paying most of his contract even while he is in another team’s uniform.)
At least as it sits now, though, he is the Orioles problem to deal with. All O’s fans can do is sit and wait, and surprisingly cheer whenever he records all three outs of an innings, even if that inning is the first.