By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
What are the consequences of Ubaldo Jimenez’s refusal to accept the $8 million option that would have bound him to the Indians in 2014?
Jimenez becomes a free agent, able to sign with any team that wants him, including the Tribe, though that is unlikely. It appears that Jimenez is bent on testing the market, and already there has been speculation that he will command about $14 million per season on a multiyear contract.
It is believed that Jimenez is hoping to sign with a large-market team in the American League. He prefers not to return to the National League, because he does not want to hit.
His asking price probably is too steep for the Indians, who have seen the best and the worst of Jimenez. For most of the 2½ years he spent with the Indians, the talented right-hander struggled to find his mechanics and regain his confidence.
Before the 2013 season, when Jimenez posted a 13-9 record and 3.30 ERA, he was a far different pitcher than the one who threw a no-hitter for the Colorado Rockies in 2010 and was one of the most dominating pitchers in the majors for the first half of that season.
After reaching those heights, his fortunes plummeted. In 2012, Jimenez arguably was the worst pitcher in the American League, compiling a 9-17 record (most losses in the AL) and a 5.40 ERA. Until the 2013 season, his record as a member of the Tribe rotation was 13-21 with a 5.33 ERA.
Considering Jimenez’s history, it’s easy to see why General Manager Chris Antonetti would hesitate to go all out to keep him.
Antonetti has until Monday to make Jimenez a qualifying offer of $13.3 million for one year, which would ensure that the Tribe receives a draft choice if Jimenez signs elsewhere.
(The qualifying offer is the average 2013 salary of the top 125 major-league players).
Antonetti will not receive the No. 1 selection of the team that signs Jimenez, but a pick between the first and second rounds. Which pick depends on how many teams make qualifying offers to players lost to free agency.
Jimenez will have seven days to accept or reject the qualifying offer.
With Jimenez out of the picture, the Indians’ rotation shapes up this way: Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber and Danny Salazar.
Scott Kazmir is a free agent, but he will not command the dollars that will flow Jimenez’s way. Consequently, he should become a prime target of Antonetti.
In addition, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, both of whom spent most of the season at Triple-A, are candidates to win jobs in the rotation. Josh Tomlin, who missed most of the 2013 season after having Tommy John elbow surgery, will also compete for a spot in the rotation.
Jason Giambi said he never expected to still be playing when he began his major-league career with the Oakland Athletics in 1995.
But when he turns 43 in January, he will be preparing to spend his second spring training with the Indians.
“I’m ecstatic about it,” he said Friday. “I talked to my wife about it [returning], and I talked to the Indians. There is no place I would rather be. I had so much fun last year playing in Cleveland.”
For the second consecutive winter, Giambi signed a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.
“I definitely know at my age, that to sign a major-league deal — well, I’m not worried about it,” he said.
Nor should he be. It is unlikely that Giambi won’t make the team. However, not giving him a spot on the 40-man roster protects the Indians should something unexpected happen and they need that spot for someone else.
Last season, Giambi batted only .183, but he hit nine home runs and amassed 31 RBI in only 186 at-bats. Twice he hit walk-off home runs in September to beat the Chicago White Sox.
Giambi not only was a part-time designated hitter, he was the go-to guru in the clubhouse, not only for younger players but for veterans and manager Terry Francona.
Asked about his leadership skills, Giambi said, “It’s not something where I just raised my hand and said, “I’m a leader.’ ”
His expectations for the Indians are higher than when he arrived last spring.
“I want this team to reach further and further,” Giambi said. “I think this is a team that could win the World Series.”
The Tribe has re-signed infielder Ryan Rohlinger and signed right-hander J.C. Ramirez to minor-league contracts with invitations to big-league camp.
Rohlinger, 30, batted .265 with 17 doubles, five homers and 25 RBI in 92 games at Triple-A Columbus last season, playing third, short and second.
Ramirez, 25, split the 2013 season between Double-A Reading, Triple-A Lehigh Valley and the Philadelphia Phillies. At Reading and Lehigh Valley combined, he was 5-2 with a 4.04 ERA in 49 innings of relief. For the Phillies, he was 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in 18 relief appearances, encompassing 24 innings.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.