Indians finalize five-player deal for Ubaldo
Right-hander likely to make first Tribe start against Texas
CLEVELAND -- Indians general manager Chris Antonetti could only stand by and watch helplessly. Ubaldo Jimenez, the front-line starter Cleveland was poised to acquire, was taking the mound for the Rockies in San Diego.
More than 2,000 miles away, Antonetti had already made the call from Progressive Field to his Double-A affiliate in Akron to alert the team of the impending deal. Cleveland's prized pitching prospects, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, were immediately scratched from their scheduled appearances.
Not Jimenez, though. He was getting ready to face the Padres.
"There was a level of anxiety watching it," Antonetti admitted.
Antonetti said it was not his place to request that Colorado pull Jimenez from the contest -- one that began to spiral out of control for the distracted starter. After all, the blockbuster trade was not complete and it would not be finalized until after Jimenez underwent a physical exam at Cleveland's site in Goodyear, Ariz.
That final step took place on Sunday morning, allowing the two ballclubs to put the finishing touches on the five-player swap roughly a half-hour before the arrival of the 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. Jimenez went to the Indians and a quartet of prospects, including White and Pomeranz, were packaged and shipped to the Rockies.
With that, Antonetti officially made his mark on the Indians organization.
"With the addition of Ubaldo," Antonetti said, "we feel like we've significantly improved our starting rotation, not only for this year, but for at least the next two seasons. For us, that was an important and compelling part of the deal."
In order to clear room on the 40-man roster for Jimenez's arrival, the Indians activated pitcher Mitch Talbot from the 15-day disabled list and promptly designated him for assignment. Cleveland has yet to announce which starter will be bumped from the rotation now that Jimenez is in the fold.
Jimenez is currently in Colorado collecting some personal belongings and he is being allowed to join the Indians later this week during the team's four-game series in Boston. His debut for the Tribe will likely come on either Friday or Saturday during Cleveland's weekend road set against Texas.
Indians manager Manny Acta, who knows Jimenez and his family, was excited about reeling in such a talented starter.
"I'm happy to add a guy like him," Acta said. "He's a guy that is going to give us an opportunity to win every five days. He's also a very quality human being, which will be good for our clubhouse. Most importantly, he's a guy that can be dominant when he's right."
The Indians parted with a wealth of talent in order to reel in Jimenez, who finished third in voting for the National League Cy Young Award a year ago. White and Pomeranz were the top two pitching prospects in the Tribe's system, which now appears thin on arms with similarly high ceilings.
Beyond including White and Pomeranz -- a combination that was not available for any player but Jimenez -- the Indians dealt away Double-A right-hander Joe Gardner and Minor League first baseman Matt McBride. McBride sufffered a facial injury on Friday, but it was not deemed serious enough to hold up the deal.
Pomeranz, who was the Indians' first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, is technically considered a player to be named later in the trade. In accordance with Major League Baseball's guidelines, Pomeranz is not eligible to be traded until he is one year removed from signing his first professional contract.
Under the circumstances, Cleveland is allowed to trade Pomeranz until Aug. 15. Until that date arrives, Pomeranz will remain in the Indians' farm system, though he is not likely to appear in Minor League games. Antonetti said Cleveland will work with Colorado to map out Pomeranz's immediate work schedule.
"We're still working through that process with the Rockies." Antonetti said. "The logistics of that get a bit complicated, but we're working through that right now."
White was the Tribe's first-round selection (15th overall) in the 2009 Draft and both he and Pomeranz were considered cornerstones for Cleveland's future core. Dealing both in the same trade was a suprising turn for the Indians, especially given Antonetti's repeated insistance that the club refused to "mortgage its future" in any deal.
Antonetti said this trade -- a deal that has been in the works for nearly the entire month of July -- was the exception.
That did not, however, make the decision to pull the trigger an easy one.
"It was really difficult," Antonetti said. "To part with the level of talent that we traded in this deal was exceptionally difficult for us to do and it would take a very rare set of circumstances to come together for us to consider it. I think this met that criteria.
"Those guys [star players under club control for at least two years] do not get traded that often. And we, in our market, don't have the ability to acquire these guys through Major League free agency. There are very few opportunities for us to do it.
"That was really the impetus behind the trade and the motivation behind it."
Players inside the Indians' clubhouse agreed that acquiring Jimenez was worth the steep asking price.
"It's exciting," Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner said. "He's definitely a difference-maker at the front-end of your rotation. You need some horses in your rotation to go far and I think he'll definitely be a difference-maker for the next few years for us."
Hafner's last comment was the key for Cleveland.
Jimenez, 27, is under club control for at least two more years. The right-hander is earning $2.8 million this year and is due to make $4.2 million in 2012. His contract also includes a $5.75 million club option (or a $1 million buyout) for 2013. There is a chance that he could be around through '14, too.
As part of his original deal with Colorado -- a four-year pact inked in January 2009 -- Jimenez has a 2014 club option worth $8 million (also including a $1 million buyout). Due to being traded, however, the pitcher has the right to remove that club option.
Cleveland is currently working with Major League Baseball to sort out the technical aspects of that clause.
"It's still a possibility that that could be there," Antonetti said of the option. "It's a little complicated in terms of how that can work. Because of the trade, it does set a mechanism in place where he has the ability to void that option. It's not clear whether or not he will do that."
The Indians are not overly concerned with that element at the moment, though.
For now, Cleveland is content with the fact that it has obtained a star pitcher who has the ability to lead an already-formidable rotation. A year ago, Jimenez ran out to a 13-1 record and ended with 19 wins and a 2.88 ERA, earning a start for the National League in the All-Star Game along the way.
The Indians own a 53-52 record at the moment, but sit just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers in the American League Central. While Cleveland's offense has labored of late, adding Jimenez further strengthens a rotation that currently includes Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco and David Huff.
Antonetti emphasized that Jimenez was not added simply to increase the chances of reaching the postseason this year.
"We do feel Ubaldo is going to significantly impact our chances of making the postseason this year," Antonetti said. "But we also feel he's going to do that over each of the next two years. That's probably more of the driving factor than just looking at his impact for any half season."
Jimenez has struggled some this year, going 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA in 21 starts, including Saturday's forgettable episode at PETCO Park. The righty has also seen a drop in average velocity this season, though his early-season injuries (hip flexor, groin and thumb cuticle) probably play a role in that development.
Antonetti noted that Cleveland's scouts clocked Jimenez's fastball as high as 98 mph, but noted that the starter has typically registered around 93-94 mph consistently. The Indians general manager also made it clear that the Tribe would have backed out of the trade had there been any red flags during Sunday's physical.
"If we were not satisfied with the medicals," Antonetti said, "there would not have been a deal."
And the physical became extremely important after Saturday's chain of events.
While the Indians and Rockies continued to work through the details of the trade, Jimenez was warming up in the bullpen in San Diego. While working through his pitches, the starter already knew that he was on the verge of being traded.
"I was really surprised, because even before the game, everybody knew," Jimenez told reporters. "When I got to the bullpen, I was like 'I don't know what I'm doing here,' because it was a sure thing."
In his one inning of work, Jimenez labored through 45 pitches, firing off just 21 strikes in the process. He issued four walks, allowed a pair of doubles and was hung with four runs in his final, forgettable, appearance as a member of the Rockies.
It was nerve-wracking for Antonetti to witness.
"He didn't exactly have a one, two, three, quick inning," Antonetti said. "There was obviously a lot on his mind."
The Indians are just happy that is now in the past.
"In the end," Antonetti said, "we're happy with the result.