Red Sox? Yankees? Bah. The upstart Cleveland Indians have reportedly come out of nowhere and snatched Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jiménez from the grasp of the big boys, completing a trade Saturday that will send two of their top prospects to Colorado in exchange for Jiménez.
The trade came with a weird twist. With rumors flying well before Jiménez's scheduled start against the Padres in San Diego, Jiménez warmed up before the game and took the mound in the first inning, while Colorado's Esmil Rogers was warming up in the bullpen. Jiménez wasn't sharp, walking four Padres and giving up a pair of two-run doubles. Jiménez finally escaped the first inning, trailing 4-2 and having thrown 45 pitches. Rogers finally took over in the second inning.
Apparently the Rockies sent Jiménez to the mound with hopes of extracting a fourth player from the Indians, and apparently it worked.
Specifically, the Rockies are getting: Alex White, the Indians' top right-handed pitching prospect; Drew Pomeranz, the Indians' top left-handed pitching prospect; Matt McBride, a 26-year-old 1B/OF who seems like a throw-in; and right-handed pitcher Joe Gardner, who entered this season as a decent prospect but has struggled this season in Class AA.
Pomeranz hasn't actually been announced yet; the Indians' first-round draft pick last year, he didn't sign until August 16 and can't officially be traded until he's been an Indian for one full year. So for now, it's White, McBride, Gardner and PTBNL.
There's been some skepticism about the Indians, who a) even with Jiménez, still look look like the third-best team in the A.L. Central, and b) have just given up two of their top prospects, which isn't something you're supposed to do when operating with a relatively tiny budget.
Well, a) is true, but b) isn't nearly as worrisome as you might think. It wouldn't make sense for the Indians to trade two real prospects for a rental ... Jiménez is much more than that. The Indians now own Jiménez's services through 2013, for the bargain-basement price of roughly $10 million. That's the sort of money even the Tribe can afford ... and if they decide next summer that even that's too much money, they can always flip Jiménez for some other team's prospects.
The only real risks here are that Jiménez isn't good, or gets hurt. But if he's healthy, they're unlikely to come away losing on this transaction.
Meanwhile, it's still not completely clear why the Rockies would give up on Jiménez at this point; because they had a 2014 option on him -- an option now voided, since he's been traded -- Jiménez was actually more valuable to the Rockies than he is now, to the Indians. White and Pomeranz are both outstanding prospects, and both have a decent chance of pitching in an All-Star Game someday. But for a young pitcher, the road to stardom is loaded with potholes, oil slicks, and those things highway patrolmen stretch across the road to kill the tires on getaway cars. There's a really really good chance that Ubaldo Jiménez will win more games over the next two months and two years than White and Pomeranz will, together.