CLEVELAND – The ball is back in Ubaldo Jimenez’s court.
The Indians exercised an $8 million option for 2014 that the right-hander promptly voided to become a free agent, and now Jimenez has another decision to mull after Cleveland made him a $14.1 million qualifying offer Monday.
The one-year qualifying offer is worth the average of the top 125 salaries in Major League Baseball. If Jimenez, 29, rejects the offer and signs with another team, the Indians would be compensated with a first-round draft pick in June.
Jimenez (13-9, 3.30 ERA) is one of two veteran free-agent starters that pitched well for the Indians last year. Left-hander Scott Kazmir (10-9, 4.04) is also without a contract for 2014, but is open to returning to Cleveland.
The same might not hold true for Jimenez, who is expected to test the free-agent market in hopes of landing a lucrative multi-year deal after a bounce back season this year. After struggling for much of his tenure in Cleveland (2011-2013), Jimenez was one of the majors’ most dominant second-half starters, helping the Indians to their first postseason appearance since 2007.
The Indians have already been busy this offseason, releasing two-time all-star closer Chris Perez on the same day they re-signed veteran slugger and clubhouse leader Jason Giambi. Cleveland also declined a $7.5 million option on designated hitter/outfielder Jason Kubel.
The Indians have three free agents – right-handers Joe Smith and Matt Albers and lefty Rich Hill – in the bullpen, as well as catcher Kelly Shoppach. None of them are guaranteed to return, with Smith – a staple of Cleveland’s relief corps since 2009 – expected to command a long-term contract. He is eligible for arbitration after earning $3.1 million this year.