Baseball Insider

With short window for winning, Orioles had to sign Ubaldo Jimenez

Buck Showalter can only weave so much magic with his Core Four's window short. (USATSI)
Buck Showalter can only weave so much magic with his Core Four's window short. (USATSI)

More O's: Jimenez gets 4 years, $50M | Snyder: Unlikely to work

The Orioles did the right thing by signing Ubaldo Jimenez. There is no question about that.

Let's not nitpick about Jimenez's inconsistencies and issues (I might have gone with Ervin Santana, who's more consistent, but this is no time to quibble. Either would have helped immensely). The Orioles needed to add a viable veteran starter, and they did just that.

Now they look a lot more like a real contender in the AL East.

The Orioles are a win-now team, so they had to upgrade a questionable rotation. They have a two-year window with their great nucleus of 20-something players. After 2015, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters can be free agents. No one has any illusion about the Orioles being able to sign either one. So to be blunt, they have two years to get it done.

Davis is going to want to be paid like Joey Votto ($225 million, 10 years), at the very least, and Wieters will expect to slot in somewhere below Buster Posey's $167-million, nine-year deal. There's so little hope on Wieters signing long-term that the Orioles aren't going to make this the third spring in a row to attempt it. As for Davis, the chances are even less, if that's possible.

Anyone see Peter Angelos coming up with $200 million-plus for anyone besides a blood relative?

The Orioles have their own terrific young Core Four thanks to some very wise moves by both Andy MacPhail and Dan Duquette. But they weren't going to win a World Series with young hitters and fielders, plus Buck Showalter's magic, alone.

They have some very promising young pitchers coming, most notably big right-hander Kevin Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick a couple years back who's already wowing them in camp, plus bigger right-hander Mike Wright, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and others. But the rotation before the Jimenez deal wasn't going to cut it in the AL East.

They had to do something.

Chris Tillman is developing into a nice pitcher, and Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen are solid starters. But one nice starter followed by three solid starters isn't a group that's going to thrive in the bloodbath that is the East.

I get all the criticisms of Jimenez. He isn't the most consistent pitcher in the world.

But at his best, he's a top-of-the-rotation starter, something Baltimore badly needed. At his best, he can go 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA in a month like he did last September, when the surprising Indians needed him most.

He'll probably never recapture what he was at the beginning of 2010, but he appears on his way to coming close past performances, thanks to the tutelage of Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, who helped him find his old rhythm.

As Matt Snyder pointed out in arguing against the signing for $50 million over four years (the numbers were reported first by CBSSports.com), Jimenez's strikeout rate of 9.56 per nine innings last year was the best of his career. Better things are ahead.

As Snyder also mentioned, Jimenez threw more groundballs last year, conjuring that great year of 2010. That's something the Orioles surely noticed.

But we don't need numbers to know the Orioles needed to make this move.

Angelos needed to prove he isn't trying to compete with the cash-starved Rays for the honor of lowest payroll in the toughest division. Before the Jimenez deal, the Orioles were surprisingly close.

But most of all, the Orioles needed to make the move because they may have a short window to overtake the Red Sox, Yankees and the rest. No one has a better young positional quartet than Davis, Wieters, Adam Jones and Manny Machado. The Orioles couldn't take a chance of wasting their finals couple years together.

The window is short. They had to act now.

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