Jair Jurrjens Demoted To Triple-A

With Tim Hudson set to return from the disabled list next week, the Braves have opted to send down Jair Jurrjens, who made last year’s NL All-Star team, rather than prospect Randall Delgado.

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.




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Ben Duronio writes for Capitol Avenue Club, FanGraphs, and does the Sports Illustrated Power Rankings. Follow Ben on twitter @Ben_Duronio.

52 Responses to “Jair Jurrjens Demoted To Triple-A”

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  1. MVPrado says:

    So would you rather have traded JJ and I for Adam Jones?

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    • Ben Duronio says:

      I was on record at the time saying I believe that was too much. Jurrjens and Jones were relatively comparable in value at the time, in terms of production. I would have looked for another deal, and I don’t think the Braves were necessarily wrong in wanting to find more value in him. However, I think the rest of the league may have been properly valuing Jurrjens while the Braves thought he was better than he actually is, which is probably why he is still a Brave.

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      • TKDC says:

        I don’t think teams usually try desperately to trade guys that they think are so great. I think the Braves just weren’t willing to sell him for peanuts and that is basically all that was offered. As it turns out, perhaps peanuts is all he’s worth at this point, but there was no way of knowing that.

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      • Ben Duronio says:

        The declining velocity along with other teams valuing him along side of those “peanuts,” in addition to having ample pitching depth and not much cash were certainly reasons to consider trading Jurrjens for less than they had hoped. Again, I wouldn’t have traded him in that package, but I would have tried to acquire a prospect or two with some upside that was far away from the Majors, somewhere like low-A. Saving money would have been as big of a reason as being sour on him. He wouldn’t have netted the return he would have last summer, and I think that’s what frustrated the Braves front office the most. They knew what he was worth then, and thought a strong start could get him to that level again. It was a risk, and the risk ended up not working out for them.

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  2. Kyle H says:

    Pretty sure the Braves thought that AJ for JJ, Prado, and two of their top pitching prospects was too steep. If I remember correctly they were willing to give up just JJ and Prado, but the O’s didnt bite.

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    • TKDC says:

      Yes, you are correct that the O’s were asking for Prado, JJ, and two top pitching prospects. The trade negotiations that were reported didn’t really make sense for either team. The Braves tried to get something for Jurrjens. Are there any credible reports that the Braves turned down something of value? I think the Braves weren’t the only team in the league that was concerned about his future.

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      • Ben Duronio says:

        Bowman reported his source said “two premium” players. That could mean pitchers, but it could also mean prospects who are in their top-25. It’s a pretty vague description. Again, just citing that they decided not to trade him then, not that they necessarily should have.

        When they really should have was last year during the season, while he was on the up and the Braves had Mike Minor in triple-A. They still could have taken a hit and traded Jurrjens for less than they wanted to this winter, but they opted to see if Jurrjens could build value early in the year. Obviously, that backfired.

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      • Josh says:

        Yeah it’s always smart to trade an all-star pitcher in the middle of a playoff race, and turn to a rookie.

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      • Ben Duronio says:

        It’s not as if I am saying this in hindsight. At Capitol Avenue Club I, as well as other writers at the site, were advocates of doing that during last season. Minor is and was the better pitcher, and the fact that Jurrjens was extremely fortunate in certain areas last year does not change that fact. They had the ability to sell him and maximize their return, but instead are left owing $5.5m to a pitcher in triple-A who they will likely end up non-tendering.

        There were numerous signs that Jurrjens’s spectacular first half was clearly unsustainable.

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      • JT says:

        I’m pretty sure that I read on this blog that the Orioles wanted two of the top young pitchers (Minor, Beachy, Delgado, Teheran) from the Braves for Jones.

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      • Ben Duronio says:

        Here is Mark Bowman’s report on the matter: http://markbowman.mlblogs.com/2011/12/21/braves-did-not-offer-jones-and-prado-to-the-orioles/

        Maybe what you read was the Oriole reporter, as I do not know if he included names or anything in his post, but Bowman was quick to debunk any of that. I also never recall Bowman naming any names, but I could certainly be mistaken.

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      • jim says:

        jair jurrjens having been an all-star is like omar infante having been an all-star

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      • Surrealistic Pillow says:

        “They had the ability to sell him and maximize their return, but instead are left owing $5.5m to a pitcher in triple-A who they will likely end up non-tendering.”

        When did they have such an ability? Do you think the other GMs around the league were unable to look beyond his shiny ERA and see his mediocre peripherals and unsustainable BABIP, strand rate, etc?

        Jurrjens is a decent #3 or nice #4 starter and that’s about it. He has little or no surplus value at his current salary, and I think it unlikely that an incredibly lucky first half last year fooled other teams around the league regarding his value.

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      • bstar says:

        @Jim, no, JJ’s All-Star selection wasn’t dubious at all, while Infante’s might be the worst selection of all-time. After all, Jurrjens was 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA in the first half last year, peripherals be damned.

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  3. Dekker says:

    I think the Braves learned their lesson about non tendering talented players that have bad years after Kelly Johnson. At worst he’ll go on the “mystery DL” at some point this season.

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    • Anon21 says:

      From a sabermetric perspective, it’s not clear that Jurrjens is especially talented. He’s always been a bit of a smoke and mirrors guy, and with the velocity decline and the spiraling walk rate, it just isn’t clear that he has much to offer a contender.

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    • bstar says:

      The Braves learned a lesson from letting Kelly Johnson go? What lesson would that be? Johnson OPS’ed a .717 with 163 K’s last year.

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      • tmorgan1970 says:

        Are you aware that the league-wide OPS in MLB last year was 719, and that Johnson is a 2b?

        It wasn’t a good year by his standards (866 in Arizona in 2010), but it was hardly awful. Times have changed… the “suck line” is no longer a 700 OPS. League-wide OPS has dropped about 50 points since 2006. High 600′s for a middle infielder or catcher really isn’t all that bad, contextually.

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  4. Derek in Little Rock says:

    By “weary”, I think you mean “wary”. In fact, I’m sure of it.

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    • L.UZR says:

      I thought he meant “wooly,” as in “oh she may get wooly, women do get wooly, because of all the stress.”

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  5. Gregory says:

    If the Braves want Teheran to pitch more in the minors, they can use Kris Medlen in the rotation as well. I think they’re trying to send JJ a message with this move and they can certainly afford to given their pitching depth.

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    • JT says:

      I don’t think there is any “message” being sent to Jurrjens. He has been a stand up guy since the day the Braves traded for him. He has been willing to help out the younger pitchers and has been a team leader. I think they want him to go to AAA to work on his mechanics and try to figure out what is wrong. I’ve never been a big fan of Jurrjens but from all accounts he is a great guy and a hard working player. You don’t “send messages” to guys like that.

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    • Ben Duronio says:

      Agreed, I don’t see this that way at all. They need him to pitch better for him to help the team, and there was no sign of him doing so. In the minors he has a chance to right the ship and come back up and perform well. There are no character issues with Jair, from anything I have read or seen since he was traded to Atlanta.

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    • bstar says:

      Agreed as welL. Jurrjens does have a great make-up and a great attitude, and if anybody can handle a minor league demotion, it’s him.

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  6. hscer says:

    Maybe Jurrjens can hang out with Lannan sometime.

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  7. TSteel says:

    I don’t think you should refer to Adam Jones as peanuts…

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    • Ben Duronio says:

      I don’t believe anyone here, me included, is. What Jurrjens would have received by himself would have been much less valuable than Jones, however, despite me feeling that their relative values over the winter were not vastly different.

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  8. deadpool says:

    The thing about Jurrjens is that the Braves had several chances to trade him over the course of his short career, and honestly there was a pretty strong outcry of “please do it!” from the informed fan base. This really, simply is a case of the Braves use of a more or less exclusively scouting based approach causing them to significantly overvalue a player. I’m not saying they should fire they’re scouting departments, because the numbers guys can be just as wrong at times, but they should at least hire an assistant GM in charge of statistics, even if it is just in name only like the Philies do.

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    • Ben Duronio says:

      While I agree with some of your comment, I know for a fact that the Braves look at in depth statistics. Their front office acknowledges and utilizes advanced statistics as well as creates their own for evaluations. The idea that they are a scouting-based organization that disregards stats isn’t quite valid, and is more-or-less a myth.

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      • deadpool says:

        I believe you, I’m just going by what I read on this site. Even when the org rankings came out the Braves lack of statistical savvy was cited against them. If its a myth (and your statement indicates that you have inside information that it is), then its even widely held by some of the authors here.

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      • Ben Duronio says:

        Hmm, maybe that was last year’s? Matt Klaassen did the 2012 rankings and said this, the only thing in which he acknowledges whether they are a stat or scout based front office.

        “The Braves have a reputation among fans as a relatively traditional front office, but that may be a bit misleading. Of course, every team in baseball utilizes some degree of “objective analysis,” but that really is not what this category is about, at least not for me. Whatever methods they use, are they doing a good job (again, allowing that we have to infer a good deal about the process from the results)?”

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2012-organizational-rankings-8-atlanta/

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  9. chiefglockandhummer says:

    whither kris medlen?

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    • bstar says:

      Medlin is solidly entrenched as the 6th/7th inning right-hander out of the bullpen, serving as a bridge along with Eric O’Flaherty to Venters/Kimbrel in the 8th and 9th. The Braves tried Scott Linebrink and, sadly, Scott Proctor in this role last year and neither could go a credible job, leading to the Braves having to rely on their top 3 too often. Medlin has done a nice job thus far this season in that role.

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  10. Phantom Stranger says:

    Does anyone think Jurrjens is covering up an injury? The Braves must believe so to send him down to AAA. This is not a mechanical issue, his velocity has dropped so much there must be something physically wrong. The 2012 version of Jurrjens looks nothing like the pitcher of even a year ago. His stuff looks decidedly mediocre now.

    If someone had told me that Jurrjens had a twin whom had never pitched before and took his place this year, I would almost believe it.

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  11. Andy says:

    Whether jurrjens is worth the $5 million or not, let’s not forget Martin prado was not peanuts either in the proposed orioles deal. Despite scouting love and “potential”, prado has pretty much matched jones’ war by fangraphs as I recall, and has a 4 war season where jones has never even had a 3 war season.

    Regardless, something wasn’t right with jurrjens. Hopefully he can figure that out in the minors.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      exactly. It would have been peanuts because you’d essentially be trading Prado’s value for Adam Jones’ less versitile value. You’d then be giving up a starter who can seemingly defy his peripherals. You would also (reportedly) have to give up part of your future too. It’d be a net loss for Atlanta. Hindsight bias seems to be running rampant on here with a few exceptions of “I told ya so”.

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    • bstar says:

      It was righteous for the Braves to not deal Prado, as he is the heir apparent at third base, and now with Chipper’s retirement after this year it looks like holding onto Prado was the right move. Plus, there is absolutely no one on the horizon minor league-wise to step into the job at third after Chipper.

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      • Andy says:

        Well, technically Francisco and/or salcedo could get hat heir apparent tag. The real point is that hindsight being 20/20 any deal involving jurrjens looks different now. That said, jurrjens could recover and make this entire conversation superfluous.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        If you take Francisco’s power against righties, Salcedo’s vs lefties, and I guess Prado’s glove (not sure how well Salcedo plays) then you might have Chipper Jones. Ol’ Irongloves Francisco is hopefully just a rightie masher. Well, hopefully not, as a Braves fan I’d like to see him become awesome. I mean that hopefully that’s all SPEDy Gonzalez uses him for.

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  12. Antonio Bananas says:

    I have been a supporter of Jurrjens for a while. I think he probably has some sort of injury. Hopefully he works it out in AAA. This shouldn’t hurt the Braves too much unless SPEDy Gonzalez decides that Chad DERPin needs to pitch more.

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  13. Adam says:

    Good stuff Ben, as always.

    Keep in mind in hindsight that even though a regression was clearly in order last year for Jurrjens, it would have been difficult to deal him unless the prospect haul or an impact bat was too much to pass up. At that point, I don’t think Wren had a long enough look at Minor and to a lesser extent Beachy to trust them down the stretch, even though injuries to Hanson and JJ eventually forced him to. Given the Braves relatively ‘enilghtened’ FO, it’s likely they knew the risk they were taking regarding his peripherals but felt they did not have a choice. It’s obvious they’d be better off now, but in retrospect it’s a harder argument to make. Their best bet probably would have been to take what they could get this winter without parting with a top pitching prospect or Prado.

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    • JKP says:

      I agree with Adam here. I don’t think it was a matter of the front office truly believing that Jurrjens was/is a shut-down ace pitcher. I think they didn’t get a trade of their liking, and took a risk that Jurrjens would at least be serviceable. That risk has not paid off. Even those preaching regression for Jurrjens over the past few years could not have predicted he would go this far downhill so quickly.

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      • JMS says:

        This arguably isnt a regression. Regression implicates random chance, and people who though JJ would regress basically thought he was very lucky, and would not continue to be so. Here, he suddenly has no velocity, movement, or command, and there is almost certainly a physical, mental, or mechanical reason for it. This is an ailment not a regression.

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  14. Pete Rock says:

    Long time lurker first time poster…JJ definitely has an ailment and/or mechanical issue stemming from his right knee. Whether it’s pain or a lack of trust/feel for his plant leg, he’s just not generating enough power from his lower half. See his quote from Spring:

    “The main thing today was just trying to get the feel back pushing off and not feeling any pain,” he said. “I wish I didn’t give up two runs but it’s spring training and I’m trying to work on my pitching, get comfortable with my mechanics and get ready for the season.”

    Before the start in LA Leo was on the radio talking about how he thought JJ has been overthrowing (presumably him trying to compensate for lack of drive?), and consequently it’s affecting both his location and movement on his fastball. Joe Simpson said the same during the LA start.

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    • TomahawkChopper says:

      Why won’t the Braves bring Leo back as a pitching coach? Did they forget he is the best pitching coach of all time and is spending his time doing the Braves pregame show?

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  15. Dave Silverwood says:

    This would be a good time to seek a chance to appraise the situation and if it seems that the feeling is he can be okay for the Reds to pounce on him.

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