Reports from last night suggest that the Baltimore Orioles have signed Ubaldo Jiminez to a 4 year $50M deal. As is widely known, Jiminez was one of the two remaining high quality starting pitchers on the free agent market, and was widely believed to be on the Jays’ radar. I had been planning a post over the past couple days about how certain I was that the Jays would sign at least one of Jiminez or Santana. In fact, I was almost willing to bet my life on it. But now things have changed drastically.
To be clear, obviously it’s still possible that the Jays sign Santana and none of this matters. But the Orioles signing of Jiminez to a $50M deal indicates that the market for Jiminez and Santana is still a bit more expensive than we, and the Jays, might have hoped. Santana has been evaluated by many to be of similar value to Jiminez. Both have many question marks, both have high upside and are coming off seasons where they seemed to revitalize their careers. It is unlikely that Santana’s deal will end up much less than $50M.
The outlook from here really depends on why the Jays passed up Jiminez, and there are several options. If we want to be optimistic, we can say the Jays really preferred Santana over Jiminez the entire time. Much has been made of Jiminez’s seemingly real improvements this season, as his solid numbers were backed up by even better peripherals and advanced stats. For this reason many, including our own Kevin Thang, felt that Jiminez should be the more sought after acquisition this offseason. However, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs recently reminded us that most of Ubaldo’s good numbers really came from the final 2 months of the season, in which the competition he faced was really pretty bad. I think numbers as good as the ones he posted still need to be taken seriously regardless of the competition, but perhaps it was this that convinced the Jays that Jiminez just wasn’t worth the $50M they knew it would take to get him.
Let’s hope that was their reasoning. If so, Santana makes for a safer acquisition. He lacks Jiminez’s upside, but he can certainly hold his own as a middle of the rotation starter if the improvements he made in Kansas last year were for real. And a solid mid-rotation guy would still do wonders for this team. Maybe the Jays are still willing to spend the $50M on Santana.
However, there is of course the possibility that the Jays didn’t prefer Santana over Jiminez, and were simply waiting for one of them to cave and accept an offer in the $30-$40M range. If that’s the case, with rumors out there that the free-spending Mariners and Yankees, among others, are still looking for high quality starting pitching, I find it hard to imagine that Santana will need to settle for much less than $50M. And if so, and the Jays are still not willing to meet those demands, I’m more afraid than ever that the Jays may enter 2014 without having acquired any starting pitching.
Pitchers and catchers have already reported to spring training. The longer Santana remains a free agent at this point, the less time the team that ultimately signs him has to get him into shape for the season. I’m sure somebody will snatch him up sometime this week. Let’s just hope that team is the Jays.