The Rockies are notorious for bringing old friends back into the fold. No matter how poorly someone performed when he wore purple pinstripes, Dan O’Dowd always seems willing to give the guy another chance. You can almost picture it: somebody like Franklin Morales or Yorvit Torrealba or LaTroy Hawkins calls up his agent, asks if anyone’s interested, hangs up the phone, and immediately dials DOD. The ensuing conversation probably goes something like this:
Former Rockie: Hey Dan! How’s it going? I’m just thinking about how I’d really like to keep playing baseball next season, and well, I’ve got a few tentative offers on the table, but there’s nothing I’d like more than to come back and play for you!
DOD: Hey man! Great to hear from you! Sure, come on back! I’m sure the other teams are giving you competitive offers, so just have your agent give me a call, and we’ll work out a sweet deal for you! Can’t wait to see you in spring training!
It feels like it must be that easy. And a guy with no deal on the table at all suddenly has another major league contract. Now, I’m not entirely critical of this. I like that our organization is loyal to its players and staff, and I admire DOD’s unwavering faith in everyone’s imminent comeback, even if I find that a bit naive. It’s just that it’s one thing to field a winning team with a bunch of mediocre 2o-somethings. It’s an entirely different thing to field a winning team with a bunch of mediocre 40-somethings who’ve spent the best years of their careers elsewhere.
All of this is just to say, despite DOD’s eagerness to recreate every Rockies team of the past at the same exact time, the guy at the top of his very short Do Not Re-Sign list has got to be Ubaldo Jimenez. We all remember the sordid story of how it went down with Ubaldo. It came to a head two years ago in a Rockies-Indians spring training game that will live in infamy. The bad blood has simmered down since then and become essentially a cease-fire. This has worked well because Ubaldo’s been playing in a different league and, aside from spring training, the two teams haven’t had to face each other. I’m sure Ubaldo’s relieved, because his reception at Coors Field if and when he ever pitches there again will not be good. Who knows? Maybe the Diamondbacks offered him a contract before they signed Bronson Arroyo and he turned it down so he wouldn’t have to pitch at Coors.
In any case, Ubaldo will be in Baltimore for the next 4 years, making roughly $12 million a year. He will not come to Coors in 2014, and he might not come at all. The size of this deal surprised me a little; Ubaldo was briefly the best pitcher in baseball almost four years ago, but he hasn’t touched that status since. His Indians career consisted of 22 wins and 26 losses, and 2013 was by far the better of his two seasons there (in 2012 he lost 17 games, more than any other starting pitcher in either league). He compiled a 4.35 ERA, though his career ERA remains sub-4.00, thanks to a few stellar seasons in Colorado. Mostly, he’s just been okay. What makes the O’s think he is worth $12 mil a year? It’s hard to say just what they’re thinking, but this is a bold move for them. They gave up their first-round draft pick to get Ubaldo, so they obviously think he can help them win now. My money is on that not happening. But he’s not my problem anymore. And who knows? Another former Rockies pitcher, Jason Hammel, was darn near brilliant for the O’s when he was with them. It could happen for Ubaldo too.