Ken Davidoff's baseball insider

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Ubaldo Jimenez and Yankees past and future

The Yankees are speaking with the Rockies about Ubaldo Jimenez, and Jon Heyman has some good details in this linked story.

Jimenez 2011 has little in common with Cliff Lee 2010. They throw the ball with opposite hands, they come from different countries and most important for the purpose of this conversation, their contract situations have virtually nothing in common. But I can't help but wonder whether last year's Lee events, from a Yankees perspective, will tie into the Yankees' pursuit of Jimenez.

Brian Cashman likes to talk of "walking through fire" to attain what he wants in the manner he wants to do it, and for sure, Cashman led a $200 million-plus payroll into an appointment-free October (of 2008) and lived to tell the tale, as his retooled club won the World Series the subsequent season.

But the truth, as Cashman himself has seen, is that Yankees Universe has a low pain threshhold relative to the rest of baseball.

I still say it's too early to assess Cashman's decision to not pull the trigger on Lee in July 2010, once Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik asked for either Ivan Nova or Eduardo Nunez to replace the injured David Adams in the trade package. There's no guarantee that Lee would've stuck around and re-signed with the Yankees, as Texas discovered, and this season, we've seen promise from both Nova and Nunez.

And to be clear, anyway, the Yankees still might not have gotten Lee once the Rangers agreed to include Justin Smoak in their package.

But we know there already has been collateral damage on that call. The 2010 Yankees watched Lee's Rangers cruise past them in the American League Championship Series, and then the organization was stunned when Lee worked his way back to Philadelpia through free agency. 

Hal Steinbrenner, while far more rational on a day-to-day basis than his father, nevertheless inherited the mantra that anything short of a World Series title constitues a failed season. That's a fine line to sell to your fans _ although I think more and more fans are understanding how silly that is _ but your baseball operations have to be more global. More measured. And the Rafael Soriano signing was neither global nor measured.

There are plenty of sound reasons, from a baseball-operations standpoint, for going hard after JImenez. You'd think that his power stuff would carry over well to the tougher league, although, to be sure, his fastball velocity is down precipitously this season (from an average of 96.1 mph last year to 93.4 mph this year, according to FanGraphs). He's known as a good kid.

And that contract, my goodness. That's gold, Jerry. Gold! Even with the provision that Jimenez can void his 2014 team option (for $8 million) if he's traded, it's still pretty, pretty good to have him under control through 2013. 

When you look from the Yankees' standpoint, furthermore, how can they not be seriously concerned about their starting pitching this season? They've received more than they ever could have imagined from Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia and can't have any substantive hope that either guy can keep this going up until and through the playoffs. Phil Hughes picked up his first win of the season yesterday, and sure, that's reason for hope, but we need to see considerably more before we know what Hughes can and will provide this season.

All that's left is the annoying little task of looking at things from Colorado's perspective. As Heyman reports, the two sides are far apart because the Rockies want Nova, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances in addition to Jesus Montero. Can't blame the Rockies for asking for that. Can't blame the Yankees for saying no.

We'll see, over these next two weeks, how compelled the Rockes really are to trade Jimenez. If the price drops, that'll be telling, and it also should cast doubt. Why would a perennial contender want to unload a guy who has been so good and who has such an affordable contract?

But we'll also see how desperate the Yankees are feeling nowadays. Whether they're feeling the heat due to their near-interminable wait of almost two years since they won the World Series. Whether they'll bite on giving up, let's say, Montero plus one or two of those pitchers.

We say that, as much as we enjoy the process of baseball operations, it's understandable that results trump process. But how often should short-term results trump long-term results? Where do you draw the line there? Should the Yankees, scarred by passing on Lee, be more aggressive this time?

I'd say no, that the Yankees are better off missing the playoffs than overpaying (let's say two of those pitchers plus Montero) for Jimenez. I'm sure there are many Yankees fans, however, and maybe even people who actually own the Yankees, who disagree.

 

Tags: Ubaldo Jimenez , Ivan Nova , Jesus Montero , Manuel Banuelos , Dellin Betances , Cliff Lee , David Adams , Jack Zduriencik , Brian Cashman , Hal Steinbrenner

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