By Sweeny Murti
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When it didn’t seem as if a rotation-changing pitcher was going to become available this trading season, all of a sudden we hear the name Ubaldo Jimenez, a rumor that first surfaced in the New York Post this weekend.
Jimenez is 27 years old, was getting better every year and had a breakout year in 2010. He fell back to the pack a little at the start of this season, and now the Rockies are entertaining the idea of trading him, although they don’t appear to be fully committed to it at this point.
Jimenez is interesting, but he’s not the perfect-fit, no-questions-asked upgrade Yankees fans have pined for since Cliff Lee escaped them last July and last December. His scuffles early this season should raise an eyebrow. One scout told me his velocity is down, only a tick, but still down. And his curveball isn’t as good as it was last year.
And remember when the Yankees traded for Javier Vazquez (parts 1 and 2) and signed A.J. Burnett, both off their best seasons? Those didn’t turn out to be sure things. Can you be certain a guy who’s spent his entire career in the big ballparks of the NL West is the answer in the rough and tumble AL East?
Not to mention the fact that the Yankees are going to have to pay a pretty good ransom to get Jimenez away from the Rockies. A source told me Saturday that—like every other team—the Rockies have their eye on top prospects Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances. And Jon Heyman reported Sunday that the Rockies want all three PLUS Ivan Nova (more on Montero below). It was suggested to me that the Yanks could get away without including all of the prized prospects, but only if they included, say, Phil Hughes. Think that’s worth doing?
Of course, asking prices start high this time of year, and they usually come down. But I wouldn’t expect it when the team isn’t desperate to move the guy. And this isn’t a Johan Santana situation either, where only two or three teams could afford the contract attached to him. Jimenez is extremely affordable with many contending teams like Detroit, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia all in on the chase. If a team wants Jimenez badly enough, the competition will dictate the compensation.
If the Yankees want to throw the big young arms at Colorado, I’m quite certain they can get Jimenez. The problem is knowing for certain that they’ve upgraded the rotation and put themselves in position to beat the Red Sox in a seven game series.
Meanwhile, some of the shine is coming off Montero. “There are red flags all over him,” one scout told me over the weekend. Another scout said, “His value is dropping every day.”
That’s due in part to his inability to stick in spring training when he lost a major league roster spot to journeyman Gustavo Molina, and in part to his unspectacular season at Triple-A Scranton.
Montero started out hitting very well in April, but has since fallen off. A look at the statistics on Sunday showed that Montero’s .760 OPS is only slightly better than Ramiro Pena’s .745 mark and worse than Greg Golson’s .782. So what’s wrong with Montero?
Two scouts told me that Montero has looked “bored” and “disinterested” at Triple-A, and that’s not a good thing for the 21-year old number one prospect in the organization and one of top five prospects in all of baseball. Holes in his swing are being exposed and defensively he “could not look worse” and is “going backwards quickly” according to one of the scouts.
It’s important to note that Montero is still very young for Triple-A at 21. Think of him as a college-age player who just got drafted. Most of those guys are starting in A-ball. Montero is playing against guys that are 5-10 years older, many of whom have some big league experience. So he’s advanced quite far for his age, which is why he was ranked as high as he was. But that next jump is the big one, and Montero is not impressing any of the guys who evaluate talent for a living.
With his skills and makeup both being questioned, it might be time for the Yankees to deal Montero before it’s too late and move Austin Romine up a level. Romine turned more heads than Montero in spring training this year, and is still doing it at Double-A Trenton.
There is still enough potential in Montero to make a very good major league player. He’s just not giving the Yankees—or anyone else apparently—any reason to believe he’s ready to use it.
What should the Yankees be willing to give up for Jimenez? Sound off below…