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Ubaldo Jimenez Signing by Orioles Necessary to Settle Nervous Fanbase

The Baltimore Orioles waited until after spring training started to make their first significant signing of the offseason, inking free-agent pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year contract.

Ubaldo Jimenez Signing by Orioles Necessary to Settle Nervous Fanbase
The Baltimore Orioles can only hope that Ubaldo Jimenez is worth the generous price. Photo courtesy Keith Allison via Creative Commons license.

The Baltimore Orioles laid completely dormant throughout the entire winter in terms of upgrading their roster. And the local fanbase was clearly becoming restless.

The Orioles failed to make the playoffs last season, finishing with a record of 85-77 and a third-place finish in the AL East. They watched as free-agent second baseman Brian Roberts left for the rival New York Yankees and closer Jim Johnson was dealt to the Oakland A’s. Yet they were seeing nothing coming back, giving them cause for concern.

Now, they can revel in the fact that the Orioles’ front office finally decided to act.

On Monday, the Orioles came to agreement with free-agent starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez on a four-year, $50 million contract.

Depending on who you read, the deal could be looked at favorably or negatively.

CBS’ Matt Snyder is one who believes the deal won’t pay off for the Orioles in the long run.

Snyder writes:

“Though reports indicate the Orioles have signed Ubaldo Jimenez for a similar deal to what the Twins gave Ricky Nolasco, I still can't get on board with a four-year deal for Jimenez. There's simply too much questionable -- or worse -- on his resume to believe he's going to help anchor the Orioles rotation in a positive way for the next four years.”

In some respects, it’s hard to argue Snyder’s point. Jimenez broke through in 2010 with an outstanding first half while pitching for the Colorado Rockies. He posted a 15-1 record and 2.20 ERA in the first half, earning an All-Star selection and a third-place finish in Cy Young Award balloting in the National League.

But Jimenez crashed down to earth in the second half in 2009, going 4-7 with a 3.80 ERA after the All-Star break. Over the next two seasons, Jimenez suffered through two pretty miserable seasons, posting a 19-30 record and 5.04 ERA. Traded to the Cleveland Indians midway through the 2011 season, Jimenez didn’t get untracked until last season, when he posted a 13-9 record and 3.30 ERA in 32 starts.

Mainly as a result of his performance last season, Jimenez earned himself a lucrative free-agent deal. But Snyder’s opinion is certainly justified when looking at the entire body of work. Jimenez has yet to put together two solid seasons in a row, let alone deliver in all four years of a contract.

On the other hand, Joe Giglio of Bleacher Report believes that the Orioles had to go after Jimenez after months of inactivity, and that it could be a risk worth pursuing.

Giglio writes:

“Awarding close to $50 million, per JonHeyman of CBS Sports, to a pitcher that owns one of the worst strikeout-to-walk ratios over the last decade comes with significant risk. Over the next four years, Jimenez could pitch down to his 2011-2012 standards (5.03 ERA), pitting this deal as a disaster for (Dan) Duquette and Baltimore's front office.

The risk associated with this deal is evident, but so is the upside. If Jimenez performs admirably, the Orioles can contend in the AL East and for a spot in October.”

Indeed, if Jimenez can continue pitching the way he did in the second half of last season, Duquette will look like a genius. Jimenez could be the best signing of the offseason if he helps deliver the O’s back to the postseason and becomes the team’s ace.

But Duquette could also look like a complete idiot if Jimenez falls flat on his face. The O’s have never signed a free-agent pitcher to a larger deal than the one given to Jimenez. Anything less than 15 wins, a sub-3.00 ERA and an Orioles’ berth in the playoffs will be doomed a failure by a fanbase that is growing weary of losing seasons and early playoff exits. 

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