07/17/11 5:23 PM EST
Deadline deal for Ubaldo seems unlikely
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
"I just heard it from [reporters], from fans on my Facebook page and friends texting me, saying, 'Is it true that you're going to get traded?'" Jimenez said with a smile.
Fox Sports and the Denver Post have been writing this week that the Yankees, Tigers, Rangers and Reds are interested in acquiring Jimenez. With a club-friendly contract that pays him $17.95 million over the next three years, and the fact that it isn't clear whether the Rockies believe they're out of the National League West race, a trade of the right-hander doesn't seem likely.
Two sources with knowledge of the situation say that the Rockies are at least listening, although one says to handicap it at anywhere less than 50 percent. That means that it could be three percent, or it could be 49 percent. Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd established a high price tag in an interview with the Denver Post.
"We would have to be absolutely overwhelmed; it would have to be a Herschel Walker deal," O'Dowd said, referring to the NFL trade that made the Dallas Cowboys a dynasty a couple decades ago.
There is benefit and risk to pulling off such a deal. It could turn out like the Rangers' trade of Mark Teixeira to the Braves, which brought them pitcher Neftali Feliz and shortstop Elvis Andrus. Or it could end up like the Athletics' deal of Dan Haren to the D-backs.
The Athletics have little to show for Haren, who like Jimenez was at an affordable contract stage. The Athletics dealt two of their acquisitions from the D-backs, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and pitcher Greg Smith, plus closer Huston Street to the Rockies for outfielder Matt Holliday, who was gone by the middle of the next season.
The Athletics also received pitcher Brett Anderson from the D-backs, who has gone 21-23 with a 3.66 ERA in 63 starts, but now is out for the season because of left elbow surgery.
To deal Jimenez would mean that the Rockies are counting on young pitchers Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio to develop into Major League stalwarts, and for Jorge De La Rosa to pick up where he left off when he returns from Tommy John left elbow surgery sometime next season. So a Major League-ready starting pitcher would have to be part of the bounty.
The Rockies also would have to receive a ready player for their lineup who is under club control beyond this year. Second base, where newly acquired Mark Ellis is eligible for free agency, is a logical spot, although they'll do whatever they can to acquire a championship-level bat. And there's no doubt that a top prospect would have to be included.
Jimenez, 27, is 5-8 with a 4.08 ERA in a season that included a horrible start due to nagging leg and thumb injuries. In his last nine starts, however, he has been ace-like -- 5-3 with a 2.56 ERA, with 54 strikeouts against 13 walks. Greater run support would have put himself and the Rockies in better position.
Jimenez said that no one from the club has addressed the possibility of a trade with him. The Rockies told Jimenez during the winter that they would be looking at a long-term deal for him, much like the ones shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Gonzalez have signed. Jimenez said that he has not talked contract with the club during this season, although he wouldn't think such talks would be a distraction.
"Every five days I'm going to be pitching, not thinking about a contract," Jimenez said.
Jimenez, for one, is not handicapping whether he would be traded.
"I don't think, like, 'There's no way they're going to trade me,'" Jimenez said. "As a player, when you're in the Minor Leagues, you hear about a lot of things that you think don't make sense, but they happen. The team is going to do what they think will make the team better."
Driving the whole situation is that teams at the top of the standings look at a team like the Rockies -- four games below .500 and 8 1/2 games behind the National League West-leading Giants going into Sunday -- to see if they'll sell off their juiciest parts. Such a trade would be the Rockies way of waving the surrender flag.
Jimenez, having seen the team make dramatic comebacks in 2007 and 2009 to make the playoffs, said he hasn't given up hope.
"I think we have to play like we started playing the first three games of the second half, but at the same time have a little bit of luck," Jimenez said. "We need to win and the Giants need to lose. Every time we win, they win. Every time we lose, they lose."
Jimenez has held opponents to a .158 batting average in eight road starts. Going into Sunday, that number led the Majors. Second was the Tigers' Justin Verlander at .184. Although his numbers now are better than earlier in the season, he has labored more at home. But he said he isn't looking to escape Coors Field.
"I've had success before here, and that's the way I think," Jimenez said. "It's just a matter of being healthy. At the beginning of the season, I didn't have my stuff. That's why I couldn't get anybody out here. Right now I'm starting to get it, so I don't have any doubt in my mind that I can pitch here or pitch anywhere, even though this is one of the toughest parks to pitch in."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.