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Will Ubaldo Jimenez Affect Orioles' Pursuit Of Free-Agent Pitchers?

October 4, 2017
How would you like the Orioles to sign a free-agent pitcher who's 30, has a 82-75 lifetime record, a 3.92 ERA and never had an arm-related injury?
Sounds good, right? The Orioles thought so, too, when they signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract in February 2014. It was the first time the Orioles had signed a pitcher from outside the organization to a contract of that length.

Almost immediately, the gentlemanly right-hander became the object of fans' Twitter outrage.
While the Orioles cruised to the American League East title in 2014, it was with little help from Jimenez, who was 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA. While Jimenez did win the game that clinched the Orioles' first division crown in 17 years, little else he did that season was memorable.
Jimenez had a respectable 2015 (12-10, 4.11 ERA), but overall he went 32-42 with a 5.22 ERA with the Orioles.
There were some moments in late 2016 when he helped the team. He had a 3-3 record and 2.82 ERA during the season's second half, and the Orioles probably wouldn't have gotten to the wild-card game without him.

But Jimenez really struggled in 2017, pitching to a 6.81 ERA with a 6-11 record.
An argument could be made that Jimenez's signing was the worst, or at the least among the worst, in team history, and it's fair to ask if Jimenez's contract will have a chilling effect as the team contemplates its moves in the free-agent market.

In order to improve the club, the Orioles have to sign some of the better free agents on the market, and to do so, they may have to offer more than two or three years. After Jimenez's disappointing stint with the Orioles, will they be comfortable offering a free-agent pitcher a four-year deal, especially one who may not have a resume as good as Jimenez's was pre-Orioles?

During the next few weeks, we'll be profiling some possible Orioles targets in free agency, and it's likely many of them won't be nearly as accomplished as Jimenez was when he was signed by the club.
Two years after Jimenez signed, the Orioles signed another accomplished free-agent starter early during spring training in right-hander Yovani Gallardo.
Both Jimenez and Gallardo received qualifying offers, and the Orioles surrendered draft picks for them. (The year Jimenez was signed, the Orioles signed slugger Nelson Cruz shortly afterward, costing another pick.)
Gallardo was also 30, and he had a 102-75 career record with a 3.66 ERA. The Orioles and Gallardo agreed on a three-year, $35 million contract, but it was restructured to a two-year, $22 million deal after a medical exam found a shoulder issue.
Gallardo, who missed significant time with a shoulder injury in 2016, went 6-8 with a 5.42 ERA and was sent to the Seattle Mariners in January for outfielder Seth Smith. (Gallardo was 5-10 with a 5.72 ERA in 23 starts for the Mariners.)
NOTE: Darren O'Day has been named a winner of the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. The Orioles' right-hander, who has been active in recognizing the military, will receive his award in Washington Nov. 16.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox