Boy, it sure was fun to see the Colorado Rockies beat the snot out of a likely playoff team last night, wasn't it? Making it all the sweeter was the fact that the man on the mound for the Rockies, Ubaldo Jimenez, has been the subject of so many trade rumors of late. In yesterday's Rockpile the majority of the sentiment seemed to be that the Rockies should trade Jimenez if a great package of prospects were to present itself. Since my opinion is somewhat contrary to this, I felt that it was only fair that I gave you my take on the situation.
Before I get into it, it is important to note that while Ubaldo Jimenez is my favorite player on the Rockies, most of my reasons for keeping him are economic. I look at baseball and the Rockies in a way that I believe is different from the majority of fans -- that is, I am not overly attracted to individual players but rather the team's success at the expense of players.
If other players can better help the team, I say trade the fan favorite (yes, even Todd Helton) for them. I advocated this with Brad Hawpe (and Aaron Cook for that matter) when he was having an All-Star campaign in 2009, and I would advocate trading Huston Street or Ty Wigginton now if Colorado can get good value for him. In my opinion, this isn’t the case with Jimenez.
In short, the Rockies should not be trading Ubaldo Jimenez for a package even as good as the four Yankees prospects that have been floated out as possibilities (and reportedly as Dan O'Dowd's asking price for Jimenez): Jesus Montero (C/1B), Dellin Betances (RHP), Manny Banuelos (LHP), and Ivan Nova (RHP). Why is this? For me, it all comes back to surplus value.
Beyond the Boxscore's JD Sussman makes the Ubaldo surplus value argument skillfully and in great detail, I don't need to rehash that here much. What I do need to emphasize is that the projected value for the quartet of Yankees prospects (even assuming the absolute best about their "prospect status") is around $66 million (I'm considering Nova a "B" pitching prospect), while Jimenez's midline surplus value as a 4-5 WAR pitcher over the next 3.5 years at his contract hovers between $75-100 million. This type of value proposition (in which Colorado receives less projected value than they lose) might make sense if the Rockies were striving for short-term playoff glory, but they obviously would not be in this situation. It just doesn't make sense to me.
Okay, so you might have a higher opinion of the Yankees' prospects. That's fine, many do. My point is that the likelihood that the Rockies replace Jimenez's value over the next 3.5 years with those four prospects (over their Rockies career) is quite low. That's reason one why trading Ubaldo is the wrong move.Reason two is that concentrating all of that surplus value on one player (as the Rockies would be doing with Jimenez) is more efficient and valuable than if the value was spread over four players. In other words, in the three extra roster spots theoretically occupied by these top shelf Yankees prospects, Colorado would instead fill them with the likes of Christian Friedrich, Nolan Arenado, and Chad Bettis -- players with considerable surplus value potential in their own right.
Reason three for not trading Jimenez is his singular talent for propelling white spheres in a forward motion. Top of the rotation starters are exactly the type of players that the Rockies will never acquire in free agency because their cost is so prohibitive that only a select few are in the price range. One might argue, therefore, that developing your own prospects is the only way for a mid-market team like the Rockies to get such a player.
Wouldn't trading for Banuelos, Betances, and Nova be the right move then? In this case I say no, because not only do the Rockies have a top of the rotation starter in his physical prime, they have a pitcher perfect for their hitter-friendly ballpark that is signed cheaply for the next few years, a player that by all accounts is an exceptionally hard worker with a great attitude, and a player that obviously wants to stay in Colorado long-term -- a player who might even be willing to accept something of a hometown discount if and when his current deal runs out.
I mean, I haven't even mentioned the cost of the negative PR and (somewhat) decreased attendance that would accompany this move -- whether it be from people upset at losing Ubaldo or from those upset at the team making a rebuilding move. Jimenez has been a huge part of the Rockies' marketing campaign as well as a fixture in national advertising campaigns. There's a huge amount of intangible value to the Rockies simply to be lodged in the consideration set of MLB fans, and a Jimenez trade would keep Colorado out of sight and out of mind.
Jimenez is the greatest pitcher in Rockies history already, and I'd wager that he's going to be Colorado's best pitcher for a considerable period of time. A rotation headed by Jimenez, a healthy Jorge De La Rosa, and Jhoulys Chacin is a fearsome rotation, especially in the playoffs -- and it is one that is easily possible for the next three years. That's plenty of time in which to fix the hitting holes on this team. I say, leave the pitching more or less as is.
My philosophy in baseball is that amassing the most talent (and utilizing that talent properly) will give you the best chance of winning. Ubaldo Jimenez is a supremely talented pitcher, and I firmly believe that you pay for and retain talent, especially talent with a proven track record at the major league level.
Ubaldo's raw talent is singular, his character is unassailable, and his desire is powerful. I want Ubaldo Jimenez to stay in a Colorado Rockies uniform for as long as possible, and I feel like trading him now would be a terrible mistake.
It's All About the Money, a Yankees blog, examines some common Ubaldo fallacies -- in other words, why opposing fans may be seriously underestimating his ability.
Dave Cameron of Fangraphs shows that Ubaldo has been pretty consistent when compared to his peers.