Slipping in the competitive AL Central, the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night agreed to acquire power right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) from the Colorado Rockies for four prospects, two of them elite pitchers.
The most attractive available starter at the trading deadline, Jimenez finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting last season, but mystified the Rockies this season with losses of velocity and command.
After going 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 2010, he is 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA after four months of 2011, part of that time spent battling a cut pitching thumb.
Ubaldo Jimenez pitched one inning Saturday before saying goodbye to coach Carney Lansford and his Rockies teammates.
Jimenez started for the Rockies on Saturday night in San Diego, but as he took the mound for the bottom of the first, Esmil Rogers(notes) was warming in the bullpen behind him, further fueling speculation Jimenez was on his way out of Colorado. Perhaps distracted by rumors of his imminent trade, Jimenez pitched to nine Padres in the first inning, walked four and allowed four runs. He returned to the dugout and hugged several coaches and teammates before retreating to the clubhouse.
As the mercurial Rockies fell from contention in the NL West, they began to consider restocking the system with a Jimenez trade, drawing interest from several clubs, including the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds.
The Rockies set the price for a staff ace, in spite of Jimenez’s recent performance, apparently scaring off all but the Indians, who according to the Denver Post will send four prospects for Jimenez, including Drew Pomeranz and Alex White(notes), the organization’s top minor league pitchers.
Pomeranz, a 6-foot-5, 22-year-old left-hander, was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft. In his first professional season, he has averaged 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in Single- and Double-A. Pomeranz will be listed as a player to be named later in the deal.
White, 22, was the 15th overall selection in the 2009 draft. The right-hander was 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three starts for the Indians this season.
Matt McBride, a first baseman/outfielder with power, and right-handed pitcher Joe Gardner complete the trade.
The acquisition gives the Indians a potential ace with a team-friendly contract, fitting the small-market club. Jimenez is due $4.2 million next season with a $5.75 club option for 2013 and an $8 million option in 2014.
He must pass a physical before the deal is finalized.
Since their strong start when they seemingly took command of the division, the Indians have suffered pitching, offense and injury woes. Once seven games clear of the rest of the division, they were 2½ games behind the Detroit Tigers at the start of Saturday’s play. Their starters are 7-11 with a 4.58 ERA in July, continuing a downward trend since April.
While ineffective last Sunday in Arizona and again Saturday in San Diego, Jimenez was 6-4 with a 3.03 ERA in his 11 starts before Saturday, during which his velocity was creeping back into the mid-90’s. He touched 94 mph with his fastball against the Padres.
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