Indians extend qualifying offer to Ubaldo
Club would receive Draft pick if starter declines and signs elsewhere
CLEVELAND -- The Indians would love to have right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez back in their rotation next season, but his position as one of this offseason's top free-agent arms complicates Cleveland's chances of retaining the starting pitcher.
On Monday, the Indians extended a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to Jimenez for the 2014 season, giving the club some protection and the pitcher another option to consider. Should Jimenez decline the one-year proposal -- he has until 5 p.m. ET on Nov. 11 to accept or decline the offer -- and sign with another team, Cleveland would receive a compensatory pick in next summer's First-Year Player Draft. All compensatory picks will be made between the first and second rounds, in reverse order of winning percentage.
The Indians will not extend qualifying offers to their other free agents: Scott Kazmir, Joe Smith, Matt Albers, Rich Hill, Jason Kubel and Kelly Shoppach.
This past season, Jimenez went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 182 2/3 innings, turning in an impressive rebound from his showing in 2012. That year, the right-hander went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA, leading the American League in losses and giving the Tribe a huge question mark heading into this year.
With his pitch velocity still down from where it stood in his days with the Rockies, who saw him win 19 games and finish third in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2010, Jimenez worked hard on retooling his mechanics and approach. Everything appeared to be in sync by the second half this year, when the starter posted an AL-best 1.82 ERA with 100 strikeouts in his final 84 innings.
In September, as the Indians stormed up the standings to claim the AL's top Wild Card spot, Jimenez led the charge by going 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA, 51 strikeouts and seven walks. He joined Luis Tiant (July, 1968) and Pedro Ramos (July, 1963) as the only pitchers in team history to have at least 50 strikeouts and fewer than 10 walks in a single calendar month.
The Indians picked up Jimenez's $8 million club option for 2014 on Friday, but the pitcher exercised his right to void that option in order to enter free agency. Jimenez earned that right -- as part of his original contract extension with Colorado -- after being traded by the Rockies to the Indians midway through the 2011 season.