Ubaldo Jimenez is still waiting for a contract offer that's to his liking, more than two months after he became a free agent.
There haven't really even been strong rumors connecting Jimenez to particular teams, despite his having been the best pitcher in the American League after the All-Star break in 2013. This has led to the belief in some corners that there simply isn't much interest in Jimenez, given his struggles during most of the two years prior to his fantastic second half, and the added cost of a draft pick that any team signing him will have to give up.
I continue to believe, as I have all along, that the holdup isn't about a lack of interest, it's about Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese star who's been posted for a transfer to MLB, but has not yet signed a deal stateside. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports was on the MLB Network Tuesday night, and took the same stance. When asked if there was any chance Jimenez (or Ervin Santana) would sign before Tanaka, Morosi answered:
"It's possible, but I did check with sources close to both of those camps today and it sounds like they're not close to any deal. It looks like it might be a long wait until Tanaka gets resolved."
The deadline for Tanaka to work out a deal is January 24, just over two weeks from now. He is in the United States right now to negotiate with teams. The ones that seem to have the strongest interest in outbidding others for Tanaka include the Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Cubs, but there are reportedly more than a dozen teams interested.
Tanaka is more sought after than Jimenez, so one or two of those teams may be in "Masahiro or bust" mode (among the five I listed, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are the ones who'd be giving up a 1st round pick if they signed Ubaldo*, while the others would give up only a 2nd rounder), but most teams interested in Tanaka will move onto other option if they don't land the big fish (New York might even be willing to sign Tanaka and another big pitcher).
*Also available is Matt Garza, who couldn't be given a qualifying offer because he was traded during the 2013 season. He'll be more sought after than Jimenez or Santana, especially by teams that would be losing a high draft pick if they sign either of the latter two.
The draft pick cost is tied to Jimenez because he turned down the Indians' 1-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer at the start of the offseason. Many Tribe fans are hoping Ubaldo won't get ay big offers, and will return to Cleveland on an affordable 1-year deal in an attempt to prove he's "back" and hit an even bigger jackpot next offseason, Jimenez's agents are telling teams that they expect him to sign a multi-year deal worth at least $14 million a year.