Orioles Free Agent Moves – Sign Jimenez, Agree to Terms with Cruz
Spring training is in full swing (yay). There are a handful of free agents with major league experience still shopping their services. Baltimore went shopping, and picked up a starter (Jimenez) and a power bat (Cruz). Let’s look at these guy.
Last Wednesday, Baltimore announced signing Jimenez for 4 years/$50M. Jimenez turned 30 on 22 January of this year. The contract escalates slightly each year (base for 2014 – $11.25M). There is also some deferred money ($2.25M each of the four years). There are $400K incentive clauses regarding number of starts (32 starts) and number of innings pitched each year (180+ IP). The Orioles give up their first-round pick (#17) in this summer’s first year player draft.
In eight years of major league service (Colorado, Cleveland), Jimenez has a career 1.345 WHIP. He gave up an average of 8.1 hits per 9 innings, walked on average 4 batters per 9 innings, and stuck out 8.3 batters per 9 innings.
In 2012, Jimenez led the American League with 17 losses. In 2013, Jimenez had a nice bounce-back year. He lowered his WHIP from 1.613 to 1.330. His hits per 9 innings came down from 9.7 hits to 8.0. His walks per nine came down slightly, from 4.8 to 3.9. His strikeouts went up from 7.3 to 9.6. Can pitching coach Dave Wallace coax a similar or slightly better season out of Jimenez? If so, Baltimore may have signed an ace-caliber starter at a relatively decent price.
In 2013 with Cleveland, Jimenez had a 1.2 ground ball/fly ball rate. He gave up 16 home runs in 182.2 innings pitched. He also had a 9% home run/fly ball rate. In Orioles Park at Camden Yards, he’ll have to do a better job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone. Last year, he mostly threw four-seam fastballs (33.5%, 92.1 average MPH); sliders (22.8%, 83.6 average MPH); and changeups (18.9%, 84.2 average MPH).
In looking at his 2013 advanced stats, he had not only a good year compared to 2012, but a good year compared to his career averages. Will he keep up that pace? Will he improve for the second straight year? Will he stay healthy enough to continue performing above his career averages? If Baltimore gets 2013’s Jimenez, that may get them another 2-3 wins. Last year’s 85 wins could become 88 for this year’s Orioles. Maybe, that keeps them in the race for a playoff slot a bit longer this year. Healthy and making 30 starts, Jimenez can get Baltimore 15 or so wins and a 1.3 WHIP. Who wouldn’t like that?
On Saturday, the Orioles announced they’ve agreed to terms with Cruz, the former Rangers’ outfielder. Cruz, who turns 34 in July, agreed to a 1 year/$8M contract, with $750K in incentives. Cruz was known for his “boom stick (his term)” and getting named as a participant in the Biogenesis PED scandal in 2013. He’s served his 50-game suspension last season, and Texas prepared to move on from him.
Cruz has been in/around the majors with Texas since 2006, but has only played 120+ games in three different seasons (2009, 2011-2012). His 162-game averages aren’t bad (.823 OPS, 99 runs batted in), but nagging injuries hindered him in other seasons (prior to Biogenesis).
Defensively, Cruz is an average fielder at best. His career range factor per nine innings (2.27) and per game (2.14) tend to label him as “designated hitter material”.
Say, for example, Cruz gives Baltimore offensively what he gave Texas in 2011:
124 games played (115 in the field), 29 home runs, 87 runs batted in, .821 OPS, 242 total bases, 1.3 WAR.
Here’s Cruz’s 2013 (before the suspension):
109 games (102 in the field), 27 home runs, 76 runs batted in, .833 OPS, 209 total bases, 2.0 WAR.
Compare that to Baltimore’s DHs in 2013 (not including regulars like Adam Jones, Chris Davis, etc.):
Danny Valencia, 52 games (24 in the field), 8 home runs, 23 runs batted in, .888 OPS, 89 total bases, 0.7 WAR.
Noland Reimold, 40 games (11 in the field), 5 home runs, 12 runs batted in, .586 OPS, 43 total bases, -1.1 WAR.
Chris Dickerson, 56 games (28 in the field), 4 home runs, 13 runs batted in, .666 OPS, 42 total bases, 0.3 WAR.
If Baltimore can get 130 or so games out of Cruz as a designated hitter, 25 home runs & 75 runs batted in is possible. Bat Cruz fourth, between Chris Davis and Ma
Wieters, and maybe he gives Davis some protection in the batting order. For Cruz, a good year offensively (and staying clear of PEDs) could get him a follow-on two-or-three year deal and a career resurgence as a full-time DH. He has to stay healthy.
Both deals have a world of potential. The Orioles have more faith in Jimenez’s long-term prospects in Baltimore, obviously. Cruz, however, gets the chance to show he deserves to stay in the big leagues. Produce, and he’ll get paid as he wants.
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