ATLANTA -- Jair Jurrjens #49 of the Atlanta Braves pitches against the Colorado Rockies at Turner Field. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
The Braves might be dangling one of their starting pitchers, and they might have settled on the one with the most red flags.
The Atlanta Braves kinda sorta have rotation depth. They had eight starting pitchers make starts for them last year, with all of the pitchers falling somewhere between Derek Lowe and fantastic. Mixed into that group were a couple of hotshot prospects. When the season ended, the Braves had eight pitchers who could crack the rotation of a lot of teams.
The younger pitchers faltered a bit down the stretch, though, which forced a bullpen that was already worked hard to work harder. The depth was needed because two of the Braves' top pitchers, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, were injured. Lowe has already been traded away, leaving the Braves with seven rotation candidates. If you assume that one of the prospects goes back down to the minors, that will leave an odd man out. Looks like the Braves might have found him. From MLB.com:
Now that the Braves have moved Derek Lowe, they could create more financial flexibility by trading Jair Jurrjens …
The article indicates that the Braves are more interested in moving Jurrjens for financial reasons -- that his raise from $3 million to $5 million isn't something the Braves are excited about. If I had a guess, though, here would be what I'd think is really making them think about trading Jurrjens:
The third column from the left is Jurrjens' ERA. That's what will make a GM covet the young right-hander. The last column on the right is Jurrjens' strikeout rate, which is well below the league average. That'll make some, but not all, GMs a little wary that Jurrjens can't continue his success at preventing runs.
The column just to the left of that one is his innings-pitched total, which means he's been hurt over the last two seasons. That is why the Braves are willing to trade him, and it can probably convince another GM that he's buying on the cheap.
The second column over is Jurrjens' age, which is another reason he's attractive to other teams. It's also included to remind your that he was in kindergarten when Nevermind was released, and that should make you feel old.
So those are the pros and cons of Jurrjens, whittled down to their core. He's a young pitcher who has a history of preventing runs from scoring. He's also an injury-plagued pitcher who doesn't have the kind of stuff that makes hitters swing and miss. It's an interesting mix.
But if the Braves can make room for a younger pitcher while shedding some salary, Jurrjens is the perfect candidate to trade. There's a GM out there who, even if he's familiar with more advanced metrics, stares at the back of Jurrjens' baseball card and runs "25" and "2.96" through his mind over and over and over again. A young, good, and (relatively) cheap pitcher. If you don't heed the red flags, that just might be worth a top prospect.
Say, do you know who has a few top prospects burning a hole through his pocket?
Royals general manager Dayton Moore acknowledged Friday having a conversation with the Braves about potential trade match-ups but said it didn’t get into specifics of swapping names, that it was more in general terms.
And this isn't to be completely unfair to Moore -- the Royals with a good starting staff would be an interesting collection of talent, so they're right to explore all of their options. A Jurrjens trade between the Braves and Royals might make all sorts of sense, depending on who goes where.
In theory, Jurrjens is the perfect bait to dangle for the Braves. You never know what GM is just a little too excited about him, but the right-hander is also still valuable, even considering his declining strikeout-rate. In his worst season, he was probably still worth $5 million as a back-end guy.
Trading Jurrjens might be a pretty good idea, but the depth that was discussed in the first paragraph would take another hit. The Braves collapsed last year because the depth faltered. It's a risk to assume that won't happen again with fewer competent pitchers. If I were Atlanta, I'd go for the rip-off, but stay away from anything less.