As I mentioned yesterday, the trade market can offer viable alternatives to free agency during the offseason. There aren’t many quality starting pitchers available on the open market this winter, so trades could be the best and most efficient way for the Yankees to improve their rotation for 2012 and beyond.
MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported yesterday afternoon that the Braves have informed teams they’re willing to trade right-hander Jair Jurrjens and utility guy Martin Prado, seeking to gain some financial flexibility. Brian Cashman and Frank Wren have gotten together for just one trade in the past (the ill-fated Javy Vazquez deal two winters ago), but I’m sure their working relationship is fine. Prado is of little interest to us, but Jurrjens is definitely someone worth looking into as a rotation candidate. Let’s see what he has to offer, starting with the positives…
- It feels like he’s been around forever, but Jurrjens is still really young. He’ll turn 26 in January, and he has two years of team control remaining. MLBTR projects a salary of $5.1M next season, which puts him in line for an $8-9M payday in 2013, his final trip through arbitration.
- A true four-pitch pitcher, Jurrjens uses two fastballs in the 88-91 mph range (two- and four-seamer) to set up his low-80’s changeup and high-70’s slider. He’s got good control (2.79 uIBB/9 in the last three years), and the slide-piece is a put-away offering that he’s used to hold right-handed batters to measly .228/.280/.362 batting line with a 3.3 K/uIBB ratio over the last three seasons.
- Jurrjens has had a lot of trouble staying healthy in recent years, missing the final month in both of the last two seasons with right knee problems. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus last September, then dealt with inflammation this August and September. He’s also missed time with an oblique strain (2011), a hamstring strain (2010), and shoulder inflammation (2007 and 2010), limiting him to just 43 starts and 268.1 IP over the last two years.
- That 88-91 mph fastball used to be 92-94 mph, but Jurrjens’ velocity dropped off in a big way in 2011. The velocity graph is quite scary, actually. His offspeed stuff isn’t enough to compensate, which is why left-handed batters have tagged him for a healthy .273/.349/.424 batting line with a 1.4 K/uIBB ratio over the last three seasons.
- Jurrjens is a fly ball pitcher (41.9% grounders last three seasons) and his strikeout numbers are not great (6.11 K/9 with 8.1% swings-and-misses last three seasons). That’s why there’s a considerable gap between his 3.20 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and 4.27 xFIP since the start of the 2009 season.
Bowman’s article says the Braves have already talked to the Royals about a Jurrjens trade, asking about upper-level bats like Wil Myers and Lorenzo Cain. Myers is one of the better prospects in the baseball and Cain is a big league ready center fielder, so that seems a little rich. The point is, they obviously want young position players in return, and the Yankees really aren’t loaded in that department outside of Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, and maybe Brandon Laird or Eduardo Nunez if you squint your eyes and look real hard.
Atlanta traded Derek Lowe earlier this week, so I find it pretty surprising that they’re willing to trade another one of their big league starters. They obviously have a lot of confidence in the young kids they have coming up (Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, and former Yankee farmhand Arodys Vizcaino), but isn’t this also a bit of a red flag? It’s not like Jurrjens is making a ton of money. Some guys peak early, and I’m worried that the Braves realize this and are trying to move him before his value declines any further.
There are two major red flags here as far as I’m concerned: the velocity drop and all the injury problems, specifically the recurring knee issues. The two problems might be related, since it is his push-off leg. If he can’t push-off properly, you have to worry about him overcompensating and possibly hurting his arm. You want to like Jurrjens, a young hurler who’s put up a sub-3.00 ERA in two of the last three seasons, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Given the injuries, underwhelming peripherals, and declining velocity, I really have a hard time valuing Jurrjens as anything more than a glorified Phil Hughes, and the Yankees don’t need another guy like that at this point.