Ubaldo Jimenez injuring his ankle stepping in a hole provided the Orioles with an opportunity to give Kevin Gausman an extended chance in the starting rotation and now it sounds like they’re telling Jimenez to take his sweet time coming back.
Manager Buck Showalter told Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun that Jimenez will definitely need a minor-league rehab assignment before being cleared to come off the disabled list, so he won’t be returning when eligible on July 23. In fact, it seems likely that Jimenez will miss the remainder of the month, at minimum, giving the Orioles plenty of time to figure out what to do with Gausman and their suddenly crowded rotation.
Jimenez has struggled in the first season of a four-year, $50 million deal, but his control problems have always been a major issue and … well, five months ago the Orioles deemed him worthy of a $50 million investment. In other words, he’ll be back in the rotation eventually. And by that time Gausman may have established himself as Baltimore’s ace.
The Red Sox signed catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year, $13.55 million extension, per a team announcement on Saturday. The agreement will keep Vazquez under contract through the 2021 season and covers two years of arbitration eligibility and the catcher’s first year of free agency. It comes with a $7 million club option (and $250,000 buyout) for 2022 that could get bumped up to $8 million if he reaches 502 plate appearances in both 2020 and 2021. Vazquez has also volunteered to make an annual donation to the Red Sox Foundation as part of his new arrangement with the club.
The 27-year-old backstop is entering his fourth year with the Red Sox in 2018. He’s been a steady defender behind the dish over the last three years and was ranked fifth-best in defense among all American League catchers at the end of the 2017 season. He also enjoyed a breakout performance at the plate, slashing a career-best .290/.330/.404 with five home runs and a .735 OPS in 345 plate appearances.
Come Opening Day, Vazquez is expected to be the Red Sox’ primary option behind the plate, with veteran Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart poised to start in backup roles. Swihart is out of options, but has been groomed for a utility role this spring and could take a few reps in the left field and the infield corners if need be, as it doesn’t appear the club is prepared to trade him just yet.