Virtual GM: Jimenez for Baez
Danyz Baez in 2003 (AP)
Not Tribe GM
Posted Jan 13, 2004


Danys Baez will close in Tampa, and Jose Jimenez will ... well, do something, I suppose, but he'll do it here in Cleveland. Since this amounts to trading Baez, his youth, and his bloated contract for Jimenez, his inexplicably bad 2003, and his cheapness, is this a good deal after all?

Consider this: would you trade Matt Lawton for Craig Monroe?

This isn’t the best analogy out there. For starters, Monroe is younger than Lawton, and Lawton is reviled by some subset of Indians’ fans (let’s call it “Rich S.” for sake of argument, much in the way that we sometimes use our masterful linguistic skills to refer to a hammer as a “hammer”) for reasons that are not performance-driven. Simply put, Matt Lawton can be sort of a jerk, but this does nothing to support my point, so let’s not dwell on this. The premise is that Matt Lawton gives you decent performance for a lot of money, while Monroe gives you a little less decent performance for what could be chartiably described as “a pittance.”

I’m not sure there was any Tribe fan out there who wouldn’t have liked to see Danys Baez on the roster, but there weren’t all that many itching to pay him 5 million dollars, either. I liked the signing at the time for what it signalled: that we were willing to look in nonstandard places for talent, and that we were willing to compete for that talent. It was a calculated risk, and it didn’t work out as well as it could have. We do seem to have signed the only actually-young young Cuban pitcher, for what that’s worth.

Danys Baez had three unfortunate circumstances, though:

  1. He blew 10 saves, managing to squander the closer’s role
  2. He was scheduled to make $5M
  3. He was completely outclassed by David Riske
For $5M, you’d better be a heckuva relief pitcher. Like, really really good. Or blow out your UCL. That worked for Really Big Bob, at least. We’ll see if Wickman can parlay that into something in 2004.

But here’s the deal: let’s say you could trade Danys Baez for Jose Jimenez, which is essentially what we did, without bothering the Commissioner’s Office with paperwork. Would that be a good idea?

As I said, the hook up top isn’t really the same: the ages go the wrong direction, and the length of contract is wrong. Plus, I’ve got the Jerk Coefficient pointing in the wrong direction, as Jimenez has been described as the Matt Lawton of Pitching (perhaps the Todd Walker of Pitching for those of you keeping score), while Baez by all accounts was a decent enough guy, if perhaps with 150% more eyebrow than is strictly necessary.

But the point is, Jimenez represents an incredibly low risk, in that $1M is not a significant expenditure, and he likely won’t have a crucial role in the bullpen. Sure, it’d be nice if he could step in and be the Francisco Rodriguez Commemorative Lightning Bottler of 2004, but we have the luxury of not requiring that for success. The way I see it, if Really Big Bob is the closer, Jimenez takes the Eric Plunk role of being a right-handed matchup guy in the mid-late innings while Riske sets up Wickman, whereas a RBB setback pushes Jimenez to set up Riske. Plus we have a viable (if not entirely palatable) option if RBB bonks and Riske contracts Mad Pumpkin Disease. And as far as I’m concerned, Baez would have had the exact same role; I would have moved him to the rotation, but since Tampa’s going to keep him in the pen, too, there might be something to this “Danys Baez, the man with no third pitch” sentiment.

The fact is, I’m not sure how much value there is in comparing raw numbers between any two pitchers where one of them pitches in Colorado, but there’s no way to sugarcoat it: Jose Jimenez was crummy in 2003. Plus ungood. He gave up an astonishing 137 hits in 101.2 innings. He allowed opponents to slug .465 and get on base at a .372 clip. He struck out fewer than 4 hitters per nine innings. That, my friends, is not simple badness: that is Kane Davis. However, I’m looking at the previous three years, 2000-2002:

Year IP Hits HR BB K Save Blown K/9 BB/9 Avg OBP SLG OPS
2000 70.2 63 4 28 44 24 6 5.60 3.59 .239 .312 .326 .638
2001 55.0 56 6 22 37 17 5 6.06 3.6 .264 .329 .410 .739
2002 74 76 7 11 47 41 6 5.77 1.35 .265 .293 .394 .687

Those numbers aren’t bad. 2002 in particular was interesting in that the walk rate really gorked, but here’s a guy who basically gives you 65 innings in one-inning stints, keeps the ball in the ball park (impressive for Colorado), doesn’t walk that many, gives up roughly a hit an inning … I’m not sure what this guy was doing closing, but again, Colorado is just Different.

Now, 2003 was bad: his K rate dove, his walks rose from 2002 (still, 32 in 101.2 IP yields a rate of 2.85 BB/9), and guys hit .322 off the guy. Woof! Basically, part of this gamble is to ask if you think the relatively consistent numbers from 2000-2002 are Jose Jimenez, or if 2003 signalled The Beginning of the End.

For what it’s worth, Baez’ three seasons sported excellent K rates (9.30, 7.08, 7.85) and decent walk rates (3.57, 4.46, 2.73), and his OPS was pretty good (.608, .741, .673). But, I mean, those numbers (except K rate, but including hit rate) were comparable with Jimenez, and he pitched about 5000 feet closer to sea level. One of the real noticeable things comparing the two is that Baez was a prototypical flyball power pitcher, with K rates up around 8 but a GB/FB ratio hovering around 1.0. Jimenez was an extreme groundball pitcher, even last year, with a ratio in the high twos (2.88, 3.03, 3.04, 2.57 for 2000-2003). That’s probably why he survived as closer in Colorado. The dive in his K rate coincided with the rise in hit rate, so that’s a concern, but that gets back to which Jose Jimenez you think you’ll get. Maybe the psychological boost of being able to breathe without your nose bleeding will help.

Here’s what it comes down to: if last year was an aberration, this deal is very good. The problem is, Jimenez is already 30, and that may be a harbinger of doom instead. In which case, you write off the million bucks. Better than Scott Kamieniecki, fer Chrissakes.


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