COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins and free agency have gone together like ketchup and peanut butter in recent seasons.
The franchise rarely dives into the free-agent market. When they do, they come up with somebody like Mike Lamb or Jason Marquis as they try to fit a square peg into a round hole.
A season ago, the decision to stay out of free agency was a good one for the Twins. Many of the expected targets for the team became busts for their new employers, but they weren't able to celebrate as their starting rotation finished last in Major League Baseball in earned run average.
As the Twins face another decision on whether or not to dive into the free-agent pitching market, owner Jim Pohlad has decided to put the pressure on general manager Terry Ryan by calling the team's play "embarassing" and pledging to make the financial commitment to contend in the American League Central.
If the team is serious about this statement, it needs to go after guys that have a high amount of upside but also have the realistic demands to come to Minnesota.
That's why Ubaldo Jimenez is a perfect target for the Twins this winter.
During their string of three straight 90-loss seasons, the Twins have trotted out mediocre starters in assembly line fashion. None of them have been able to fill their low expectations reasonably, and it's resulted in Target Field giving a starter a standing ovation when he's able to complete five innings.
Instead of opting for the low-upside lottery tickets, the Twins should opt to go for somebody with a chance to fill a hole long-term. By signing Jimenez, they have a chance to do that.
Jimenez was one of baseball's most feared pitchers in the first half of the 2010 season when he went 15-1 with 2.20 ERA for the Colorado Rockies. His record took a fall as he went 10-16 with a 4.13 ERA over the next calendar year, but his representatives were still looking for "ace" money.
With that, Jimenez was traded to the Indians, where he became a flop for most of his tenure there until something clicked early in 2013. Along with posting a career-high 9.1 strikeouts per-nine innings ratio for the season, he also compiled an ERA of 2.52 in his final 20 starts.
A small sample size could make other general managers leery, but this is where the Twins need to swoop in.
Landing Jimenez could be their ticket of having their first legitimate "ace" pitcher since Johan Santana was traded prior to the 2008 season. If they succeed, they'll have a guy in his prime that can team up with prospects such as Alex Meyer and Kyle Gibson to restore a once-talented rotation.
At 30, it's possible that Jimenez could have several solid years ahead of him. That would be a perfect match for a team that doesn't seem to have any on its current roster.
Chris Schad is a lifelong Twins follower that has spent a majority of his life cheering the Twins on through the dark '90s and success of five American League Central championships in the 2000s. His work has also been published on Bleacher Report and Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @crishad.
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