A Marriage Of Mutual Risk; Mutual Opportunity

The Yankees are still in desperate need of starting pitching.

With the continued absence of Phil Hughes, the foreboding nature of Bartolo Colon‘s and Freddy Garcia‘s performances and the absence of Rafael Soriano, they’re going to have to find a quality arm somewhere.

The names that will be bandied about at the trading deadline run the gamut from the financially expensive, player-cheap and probably useful Ryan Dempster; to the “steer clear because he’s toxic” Carlos Zambrano; to the check-in guys who are probably unavailable like Felix Hernandez; and the shaky, but “worth a look to see if the price comes down”-types like Francisco Liriano.

Then there are others.

There are high-quality arms that are struggling in a personal sense and watching as their team plummets in the standings.

Arms like Ubaldo Jimenez.

After a 19-8 season in 2010 and a star turn with various scoreless innings streaks and a no-hitter, Jimenez—like his Colorado Rockies—has struggled this year. Following his effort against the Cardinals, Jimenez has fallen to 0-5 with an ERA of near 6.

Despite that, he’s pitched better as of late after a horrific start; his strikeout numbers and ancillary stats are in line with what he’s always been; and without having watched him, it appears as if his problem is more command-related than any physical malady. In fact, his early season slump could have been attributed directly to the cut on the cuticle of his thumb that negatively affected his ability to grip the ball and put him on the disabled list.

Could the flailing Rockies listen to offers on the 27-year-old Jimenez? And would they do something drastic especially after losing Jorge de la Rosa to Tommy John-surgery?

Their pitching is in tatters, but they’re in a winnable division; with their penchant for late season hot streaks, it would be a major concession to toss the season by dealing Jimenez regardless of what was coming back.

That said, GM Dan O’Dowd is aggressive and willing to think outside the box, doing things sooner rather than later; the club has payroll constraints and if the offer was substantial enough to fill several holes, perhaps they’d listen on Jimenez.

What would the Yankees be willing to do?

Would they put together a package of Jesus Montero, either Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos and the heretofore “untouchable” Eduardo Nunez for Jimenez?

The Rockies have to realize by now that Chris Iannetta isn’t going to cut it as a long-term solution behind the plate and while Montero is young and his defense is a work-in-progress, he’s still a catcher and Iannetta is signed through 2012 with a 2013 option; Montero should be ready by then if he’s every going to be ready; and if he can’t catch, they can shift him to a corner infield position or the outfield.

It would be a lot to part with either Banuelos or Betances. Banuelos is 20 and Betances 23, you don’t want to trade such youth in most circumstances; but Jimenez is only a few years older, is locked up contractually at a low price through 2014—$4.2 million in 2012; $5.75 million option with a $1 million buyout in 2013; and $8 million with a $1 million buyout in 2014—and is a proven big league commodity.

He’d be a Yankee for the long haul and he’d be a highly affordable horse at the top of the rotation if he’s healthy.

Barring a salary dump, you’re rarely going to get a pitcher of Jimenez’s caliber—in his prime and signed long term—if he’s pitching well for a contending team.

The Rockies are currently in playoff contention because of the watered down National League, but they’re in drastic flux with injuries and lineup holes; maybe they’d like to reload with multiple players while dropping a stick of dynamite in the clubhouse.

With the Red Sox suddenly playing up to their potential and the Yankees pitching issues, a Yankees playoff spot for 2011 is far from guaranteed regardless of the pompous rantings of Michael Kay and Mike Francesa; if they want to go for it now, they’re going to have to surrender some young talent for a deep strike.

Jimenez might be that deep strike.

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