At the start of the offseason, Ubaldo Jimenez appeared poised to leave the Indians for a big money contract in free agency, but he’s still trying to find a home with spring training just a few weeks away. Perhaps things will pick up now that Masahiro Tanaka has signed with the Yankees, but Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer envisions a scenario where the 30-year-old right-hander could return to Cleveland:
If Jimenez can’t get a three to four year deal, and comes knocking on the Tribe’s door, I bet both parties would jump at the chance to sign a one-year deal at or below $14 million. It would allow the Indians to keep a grip on their payroll and add a key arm to their rotation, while giving Jimenez a chance to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and take another bite of the free-agent apple after the 2014 season.
Jimenez had a 4.56 ERA through the All-Star break last season, but he appeared rejuvenated with a 1.82 ERA and 100/27 K/BB ratio in 84 innings across 13 starts during the second half. There’s risk involved with making a big investment based on a small sample, especially when teams have to give up a top draft pick along with it, so there’s no guarantee he’ll find the contract he’s looking for. If Jimenez returns to Cleveland on a one-year deal and has another big season under the tutelage of pitching coach Mickey Callaway, teams would likely line up with confidence next winter. It’s something to keep in mind, anyway.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.