CBSSports.com Senior Writer

With slump behind Jimenez, why would Rockies deal him?

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Will Saturday's start at San Diego be Jimenez's last with the Rockies? (Getty Images)  
Will Saturday's start at San Diego be Jimenez's last with the Rockies? (Getty Images)  

SAN DIEGO -- Over and over, the question is asked as the Rockies hurtle toward Sunday's 4 p.m. non-waivers trading deadline. It's asked by rival executives. By opposing managers. By scouts.

Why on God's green earth would Colorado trade Ubaldo Jimenez?

Especially when they've got him under control for two more seasons at the highly reasonable cost, beginning next year, of $17.95 million through 2014 after this season?

"The guy is a threat to throw a no-hitter every time out," one rival manager says.

"I want to know if he's hurt," one rival executive says. "Something's not right there if they're making him available."

Something's not right, all right, the Rockies say. They're 12 games out of first place in the NL West, seven games under .500 and they're in need of shuffling their deck.

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Sources say there is a very good chance the Rockies will not wind up trading Jimenez, which would be a disappointment to the clubs maneuvering to land him: The Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, and -- on-again, off-again -- the Tigers (off again, as of Friday night).

But if they can turn Jimenez into a monster package that would bring stud prospects and help fill some cracks in their player-development system ... well, the Rockies are ready to deal.

"Lately, he's been really, really good," Colorado manager Jim Tracy says. "And yet, look, decisions get made. The respect factor I have for our ownership, for my boss Danny (O'Dowd, Colorado general manager) ... he's obviously got all of the information, and he's the one who has to make a decision.

"He'll make it, and I'll respect the hell out of it."

It would leave a tremendous hole in the rotation.

And yet ...

"Look," Tracy says. "You go back to the day when all the scuttlebutt was about us trading Matt Holliday. You look at Huston Street, who we got back, and all that he's done, and you look at the special player Carlos Gonzalez is.

"That's not to say anything is going to happen [with Jimenez]. The return would have to be some kind of special."

One New York report this week suggested a rift between pitching coach Bob Apodaca and Jimenez as a reason he might be available, a report that has Apodaca livid.

"That's been crazy," Jimenez told CBSSports.com during a conversation Friday afternoon. "Since I got to the big leagues [in 2006], he's always been there for me. He's put a lot of work into trying to get me better every day. I never have had any trouble with him.

"He came to me the other day and asked, 'If you've had any trouble with me, would you tell me?' I said, 'Yes, of course.'

"He's like a dad to me. He wants everything good for me. Every time I struggle, he takes it personally."

A certifiable Cy Young candidate coming out of spring training after no-hitting Atlanta last year and going 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 33 starts in 2011, Jimenez has given Apodaca cause to take much personally this year. The big right-hander called "Chief" by Tracy after the tall, stoic character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA in 20 starts.

The poor performances and the noticeable dip in velocity this summer are why so many around the game are openly wondering if the Rockies know some deep, dark secret about him.

Several scouts have been alarmed at his dip in velocity in 2011. According to FanGraphs.com, Jimenez's average fastball in both 2009 and 2010 was 96.1 mph. This year, however, it's dipped to 93.4 mph.

However, over Jimenez's past four starts, his fastball has topped out at between 96.1 and 96.8 mph. By way of comparison, according to Fangraphs.com., during Jimenez's start roughly one year ago, last July 24, his fastball averaged 96.65 mph and touched 98.9.

"Early in the year it was down, but the last six or eight starts, he's been at 94, 95 and he's touched 97," Apodaca says. "I watch King Felix Hernandez [of the Mariners] pitch, and he's not at 97 every pitch. It's 89, 90, 91 and he'll go up to 97. I used to see Josh Johnson [of the Marlins], and I'd see 91. He didn't stay at 95."

Jimenez was bothered by a torn thumb cuticle this spring and also suffered a groin strain, which he did not reveal to the club until May. That could go a long way toward explaining his 0-5 record and 5.68 ERA during the season's first two months.

Among other things, because of the thumbnail, Jimenez said he could not "bring his arm straight" and let the ball go early in the season.

Adding to that, he changed his workout routine over the winter. For the first time in three years, he did not play winter ball. He also traveled to Europe in January, and the Rockies think the change in regimen set him back and left him out of shape when spring training started.

Since June 1, Jimenez is 6-4 with a 3.03 ERA.

"I'm getting my velocity back," he says. "Not like where I was before, but I'm getting closer and closer. By the time the season's over, I'll be 100 percent."

In a lost season for the Rockies, that 100 percent could help a contender if Jimenez is there by, say the start of October.

The Yankees mostly have been mum on their plans but have some blue-chip minor-leaguers they could move. Question is, would they part with such prospects as right-hander Dellin Betances, lefty Manny Banuelos or catcher Jesus Montero to team Jimenez with CC Sabathia?

Boston is expected to talk with the Rockies again before the deadline, especially in light of Clay Buchholz's back trouble. Cleveland would greatly enhance its chances to win this year, but are the Indians willing to move, say, Lonnie Chisenhall or similar talent? Detroit, dreaming of a playoff rotation that could include Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Jimenez, has been in and out of Colorado's radar.

"What can I tell you?" Jimenez says. "Wherever I have to go, I'm going to be happy. I'll be pitching, and that's what I love. I can't tell you if there's one special team."

Jimenez's preference is to stay in Colorado.

As for other possibilities:

On the Yankees: "They have a lot of Dominican people, a lot of Latin people, rooting for that team. It's a great city. I'm ready for whatever."

On Boston: "Every time we go back there, it brings back good memories of the [2007] World Series. I lost [Game 2] 2-1. It's really special when you go to a World Series, especially your first year in the majors."

On Cleveland: "I didn't pitch when we were there, but it was nice. It was humid, how I like it. The breaking ball moves, the fastball moves when it's hot."

On Detroit: "I played there. They had a really good crowd. And they're in good position right now."

He will make what could be his last start for the Rockies on Saturday night in San Diego in a trade-deadline special against the Padres' Aaron Harang. Both pitchers are on the block.

"I'm ready for whatever," Jimenez says. "If I have to go, I'll go. If I have to stay, I'll stay. I'm going to be doing what I love, and that's playing baseball."

Really, it's a no-lose situation: Jimenez either stays home in the only baseball town he's ever known, or he's off to join a pennant race.

"That's the exciting part," he says. "It's not like they're going to trade me to a bad team."

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