CLEVELAND — After a month of preparation, two days of speculation and an early morning physical in Goodyear, Ariz., it’s official: Ubaldo Jimenez is a Cleveland Indian.
The Tribe acquired the right-hander from the Colorado Rockies in return for pitchers Alex White and Joe Gardner, infielder Matt McBride and a player to be named later, otherwise known as Drew Pomeranz, Cleveland’s first-round draft pick last year.
Because major league rules prohibit trading a draft pick until the one-year anniversary of the date he signed, and Pomeranz did not sign his contract until Aug. 15, the trade cannot be completed for another two weeks.
“This was a unique opportunity to acquire a top-level major league starting pitcher,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. “We had to give up a lot in order to complete this trade but it was worth it.”
Antonetti said the teams had been talking throughout July before finally agreeing to the trade Saturday night. To make room on the roster for Jimenez, the Indians activated Mitch Talbot from the 15-day disabled list and immediately designated him for assignment.
“(Jimenez) was in Arizona at 7:30 this morning and he successfully completed a physical, we are satisfied with the medical reports so we were able to complete the trade,” Antonetti said. “If we were unsatisfied with the medicals, the deal would not have been done.”
The 27-year-old Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history last season on his way to a 15-1 start that earned him the starting nod in the All-Star Game. He finished the year 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA.
Jimenez was third in the 2010 National League Cy Young Award voting, finishing behind Philadelphia’s Roy Holliday and St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright.
In addition to posting those lofty numbers, Jimenez, a native of Nagua, Dominican Republic, has impressed Indians manager Manny Acta off the field.
“I’m happy to add him to the team,” Acta said. “He’s well-educated, respectful and well-liked. He’s really a quality human being. We also acquired a good pitcher, who has a proven track record of success and has thrown 220 plus innings a season.”
Antonetti said that over the past month the Indians inquired about as many as 75 players before pulling the trigger on the Jimenez deal.
“It was really difficult to trade away this level of talent but this was an exceptional circumstance,” Antonetti said. “We got a front-of-the-rotation starter with a favorable contract that we can control for at least the next two-and-a-half-seasons. We would not have made a deal like this for a rental player.”
Jimenez is under contract through 2012 with a club option for 2013. His contract with Colorado also provided for a club option in 2014, but Jimenez has the ability to void it.
Jimenez struggled early this season, losing his first five decisions before picking up a win June 1. In his last 10 starts, not including Saturday’s one-inning outing in San Diego, he went 6-4. Jimenez allowed three or fewer earned runs in nine of those 10 starts.
While there have been questions about his velocity, the Indians are not concerned.
“He’s been up to 98 (mph) this year on the radar guns and he’s consistently hitting 93-94 on his fastball so we’re confident his velocity is still there,” Antonetti said.
Jimenez, who made his major league debut in 2006, has a career mark of 56-45 with a 3.66 ERA. Opposing hitters have a .230 average against him. He has also pitched as well on the road (3.65 ERA) as he has in the thin air at Coors Field, where his ERA is 3.67.
Jimenez has postseason experience, too, making three starts during Colorado’s 2007 playoff run and two 2009.
The Indians expect Jimenez to make his first start in an Indians uniform this weekend in Arlington against the defending American League champion Texas Rangers.
After completing his physical, Jimenez returned to his Colorado home to take care of some personal matters. The Indians expect him to join the team in Boston on Tuesday or Wednesday. Under MLB rules, a traded player has a 72-hour window to report to his new team.
In the days leading up to Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline, Cleveland was believed to be in the running for San Diego outfielder and former Indian Ryan Ludwick, who ended up signing with the Pirates for a player to be named later.
However, the Indians have not ruled out attempting to make a waiver trade this month.
“We expect to remain active on the trade front but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to get a deal complete,” Antonetti said. “It’s always more difficult to get a deal through waivers.”
After watching his team struggle through a 2-6 homestand in which it scored a total of 15 runs, Acta is hoping that bats already in the lineup can start to produce.
“We can’t put all of our eggs in that basket,” said Acta, referring to trades. “The guys we have here now have to produce.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.