Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has declined the Indians' $14.1 million qualifying offer and will instead become a free agent.
Jimenez came to Cleveland from the Colorado Rockies in a deal just before the trade deadline in July of 2011. He'd been a Cy Young candidate in 2010, but was a big disappointment over the final couple months in 2011, and one of the American League's worst pitchers in 2012.
He got off to a slow start in 2013 as well, but adjustments he'd been working on (in order to make him a more effective pitcher without the elite velocity he'd had earlier in his career) finally began to pay off around Memorial Day, and Jimenez just got better and better as the season went on.
After the All-Star break, Ubaldo put up a 1.82 ERA in 84 innings over 13 starts, which was second-best in MLB behind only Clayton Kershaw. Jimenez's 2.17 FIP over that time was the best of any starting pitcher in baseball. He allowed only 0.32 home runs per 9 innings, best in the American League, and struck out 10.71 per 9, behind only Yu Darvish. All told, he was probably the best pitcher in baseball during the second half. As such, despite his troubles during the two years prior, Jimenez is a lock to get a major deal this offseason, which is why I thought it a foregone conclusion that'd he'd decline the qualifying offer.
Cleveland can still negotiate a multiyear deal with Jimenez, but he's going to get 3 to 5 years at $12-15 million per season, and that's likely to be too rich for the Tribe's blood. He has almost certainly thrown his last pitch as an Indian.
The upside is that because the team extended the qualifying offer, they will now receive a compensatory draft pick if and when Jimenez does sign elsewhere. That pick will fall between the 1st and 2nd rounds, before the competitive balance picks that were given out to six small-market teams in this year's lottery. The Indians hold one of those choices as well, which means that including their own 1st-round selection, the Tribe will have 3 of the first ~40 picks in next June's draft.