Will the Colorado Rockies trade him or won't they? The him in question being 27-year-old pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. We've all heard the rumors: the Rockies want several "A" level prospects from the New York Yankees, the Cincinnati Reds are also looking to make a deal and, with the Yankees involved, the Boston Red Sox also made a jump into the fray.
Is Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd doing the right thing by listening to offers? I believe he is just following what President John F. Kennedy laid out in his Inaugural Address in Jan. 1961 when he said:
Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.
Is this a Cold War with an arms race heating up? Is Dan O'Dowd the third party that others are attempting to preclude from the buildup by negotiating with him? Maybe, just maybe, he is giving lip service to all of this and playing coy about this chase for arms before the trade deadline and the heat of August come in full force.
"Let Us Never Negotiate Out Of Fear"
When rumors first started popping up about the Rockies listening to offers, skepticism should have been warranted. Trade a 27-year-old pitcher who was a Cy Young contender in 2010? Oh, sure, he's been injured and inconsistent early on, but there's still so much of what he saw of him in 2010 coming in flashes. Why trade an "ace" pitcher now, even if that perfect package does come around? A perfect package now might just be a lesson in disaster a few years from now, mind you.
It would be foolish to think that O'Dowd would start taking calls on Jimenez only because of diminished returns and sketchy sources who are "familiar with the Rockies' thoughts" and believe that Jimenez is "pouting" over the contracts Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki signed over the winter. And concerns over Jimenez's perceived consistency from year to year, as Dave Cameron points out at Fan Graphs, are overblown.
Let us not believe that O'Dowd is operating out of any fear of holding on to someone for too long before all value is lost. By operating out of fear, O'Dowd would lose all leverage.
"Let Us Never Fear To Negotiate"
Clearly, O'Dowd is operating from a position of strength in any discussion about Ubaldo Jimenez. It should be a criminal offense if he didn't at least take phone calls from general managers around the league: "Hey, Dan, I'll offer you Players X and Y and half a bag of peanuts for Ubaldo." "Unnamed GM, I got a call on the other line. Thanks for the interest." Simple as that. There's no harm in doing that.
What would the perfect package be for Jimenez? Supposedly, the Rockies want from the New York Yankees catcher Jesus Montero (not to be confused with Miguel Montero, and if you saw a headline with that name in it, I apologize) and pitchers Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos and Ivan Nova. Montero, Betances and Banuelos are three of the Yankees' top prospects and Nova is comparable to the Rockies' own Juan Nicasio.
The Yankees, reportedly, don't want to give up the farm for Jimenez, and the Rockies don't view Montero as the centerpiece of any deal. Banuelos, a lefty and 20 years old, and Betances, a righty and 23 years old, both have the stuff to be frontline pitchers and could be in the majors sometime in 2012. Nova has already pitched in the majors while Philip Hughes was out and did well enough.
Now, if Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for some reason changed his mind on this and told O'Dowd to get the paper work ready, there would need to be some real soul-searching going on.
Accepting The Consequences
Accepting a deal like the one the Rockies would supposedly want from the Yankees would certainly widen the window for the Rockies to compete for a NL West crown and a chance at a World Series championship--if they pan out. If. That's always the thing about prospects--if they reach their projections.
Why take them when Jimenez is already in the majors and all that he does right now is better than what those other guys could do? And don't forget his relatively cheap contract over the next three years, including a 2014 option that can be voided if he is traded.
Because, in the end, it's what is best for the team going forward, and if such a deal came along O'Dowd may certainly think it in the best interests of the team. No player is bigger than his team. Yet, that may not be how the casual fan perceives it. "Tulo, Cargo, Ubaldo? These were the guys they were supposed to be selling us on as the future of the team, and now we don't have a pitcher who was damn good a year ago?" Trading Jimenez certainly would alienate some fans, but O'Dowd shouldn't be out to placate the fans. He should be attempting to build the best ball club that he can. And over the last few years, O'Dowd deserves the benefit of the doubt no matter how this ends. As Abraham Lincoln once remarked, "If we never try, we will never succeed."
But ultimately come the July 31 trade deadline, I'm sure we'll see Ubaldo Jimenez in a Rockies jersey going forward and in the years to come (well, that is before there's winter speculation). It never hurts to listen, but the Rockies are in no way obligated to trade the best pitcher in team history.