It took until mid-February, but Ubaldo Jimenez, one of the better starting pitchers on the free-agent market, has finally put pen to paper. Jimenez, who posted a 3.30 ERA, park-adjusted 114 ERA+ and 2.43 K/BB in 2013, is set to sign a four-year, $50 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.
The deal matches the one the Milwaukee Brewers handed Matt Garza in January, but is perhaps surprising to some given Ubaldo’s struggles from 2011 to 2012 (a combined 5.03 ERA, 82 ERA+ and 1.87 K/BB). Yet, despite the contract-year alarm bells going off, there are a few factors that point to at least a continuation of success in 2014 with the Orioles.
Even though Camden Yards witnessed the fourth most home runs allowed in 2013 per ESPN’s Park Factor, the move might not affect Jimenez—and could ironically benefit him, too. In addition to owning a stellar career 0.73 HR/9, the 30-year-old’s 2013 home run spray chart identifies that one of his home runs would have stayed in the park at Camden.
Courtesy of ESPN’s Hit Tracker Online
But the real difference between 2013 and 2014 for Jimenez will be the tremendous defensive upgrade from the Indians to the Orioles. Per The Fielding Bible, the Orioles posted an 11th best 17 DRS in 2013. By comparison, the Indians gloved a putrid minus-42 DRS, which ranked 23rd.
And given the right-hander’s career 47.3 percent ground-ball rate, the Orioles’ projected 2014 infield defense will likely produce more outs for Jimenez than he received with the Indians in 2013.
It obviously remains to be seen how Jimenez will perform over the course of his four-year contract, but especially given the Orioles’ dynamic infield defense, Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2013 might not be an anomaly.