Despite Jurrjens’s history as a solid starter, this seems like the right decision. The biggest reason for not wanting to send Jurrjens down at this point was to potentially hold onto some semblance of his trade value. The Braves were actively shopping him this winter, but the knee injury which forced him to miss much of the second half made other teams wary. There were talks of Jurrjens being shipped to Baltimore in a package that included Martin Prado for Adam Jones. The Braves thought it to be too steep a price and avoided the deal.
Now, the Braves are left with a $5.5 million pitcher in triple-A who is more-or-less completely immovable. It is easy to see why, despite the price and destruction of his trade value, that Jurrjens needed to be sent down. His current strikeout-to-walk ratio is 0.80, and while his career mark of 1.94 is certainly not the most impressive part of his game, having more walks than strikeouts is a rather large issue.
Above is Jurrjens’s career average fastball velocity along with his velocity range, which has been continually declining. The days of Jurrjens having a fastball that touched 95mph are long gone, as his fastballs currently average 88.4 mph according to PITCHf/x. The drop in velocity along with a drop in both control and command is about the worst combination a pitcher could have, and his ERA- of 267 and his FIP- of 220 make this evident.
Randall Delgado has not been extremely effective himself, though his strikeout rate thus far has been impressive. His current FIP of 4.53 shows that the reasoning for Jurrjens’s demotion was not Delgado’s performance, but rather the issues that Jurrjens has had to start the year. Four of Jair’s six spring starts were poor as well, which probably had an affect on this decision. If Delgado struggles over his next number of starts, Julio Teheran would be next in line. While it is unfortunate for the Braves that their second most expensive starting pitcher has been demoted to the minor leagues, the franchise’s pitching depth makes a potential revolving door in the fifth starter spot less of an issue. Most staffs would be at least somewhat devastated by an All-Star pitcher just a season ago being sent to the minors in April, but the Braves are still in a good situation to perform well, mostly due to Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor.
Jurrjens may very well get another opportunity to pitch in Atlanta, but at this time he looks like a prime non-tender candidate at the close of the season. The Braves will hope that Jurrjens improves his command and performance in the minor leagues, and then comes back up to Atlanta and pitches well enough to have trade value before the deadline. At this point, that seems like a long shot. While the Braves were able to save $5 million by trading Derek Lowe, it seems as though they have wasted even more by holding onto Jurrjens this offseason.