Jair Jurrjens Rumors

Make Or Break Year: Jair Jurrjens

The Braves boast an enviable collection of young pitchers, enough that they were able to trade Derek Lowe this offseason, lose Tim Hudson to injury, and still go 10-7 early on. Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, and Tommy Hanson have carried the bulk of the workload while Randall Delgado cuts his teeth as the fifth starter and Julio Teheran bides his time in Triple-A. One guy who has not carried his weight so far is right-hander Jair Jurrjens.

Uspw_6190304Jurrjens, 26, made a fourth straight disaster start last night – five runs in three innings to the Dodgers – and was demoted to Triple-A after the game. He's allowed 17 runs and put 38 men on base in 16 1/3 innings across those four starts after posting a 2.96 ERA and being named to the NL All-Star Team last year. Jurrjens did finish last season on the disabled list though, missing a total of 44 games with right knee inflammation. He had surgery on the same knee after the 2010 season and has made a total of five trips to the disabled list since his debut in 2007.

The biggest physical concern with Jurrjens is not necessarily his knee, but his declining fastball velocity. PitchFX data says he averaged between 91.2 and 91.9 mph every year from 2007-2010 before dropping off to 89.1 mph last season and 88.4 mph in the early going this season. The start-by-start plot of his fastball velocity range is troubling, especially since he had shoulder problems in 2007 (inflammation) and 2010 (stiffness). Only once in his four years had Jurrjens topped 200 innings (2009) and only twice has he topped 160 innings (2008 and 2009).

Although his ERA has fluctuated through the years, Jurrjens has maintained a steady walk (3.2 BB/9) and strikeout (6.1 K/9) rate through his career. He started his time in the big leagues by getting a healthy amount of ground balls (49.6% from 2007-2008), though he's become more susceptible to fly balls in recent years (41.7% from 2009-2012). After producing 3.7 and 3.9 wins above replacement in 2008 and 2009 according to FanGraphs, respectively, he's produced just 2.2 WAR total in the two years and three weeks since.

Jurrjens will make $5.5MM this season, his second year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two. The Braves made no secret of their willingness to trade him this past offseason, most notably offering him to the Orioles as part of a package for Adam Jones. They also had talks with the Rockies, Red Sox, Royals, Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers, and Reds. Given his relatively high salary, two more years of arbitration eligibility, his injury problems, and all the young arms in the rotation around him, Jurrjens suddenly looks like a potential non-tender candidate if he can't right the ship in Triple-A and contribute to the big league club this season.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


NL East Notes: Jurrjens, Utley, Tejada, Wright

Here are some links from the NL East on the day Chipper Jones turns 40 and Jose Reyes returns to Citi Field…

  • The Braves optioned right-hander Jair Jurrjens to Triple-A Gwinnett following a disappointing start against the Dodgers yesterday. The right-hander has a 9.37 ERA through four starts, so he's returning to the minors, where he last spent considerable time in 2007. Jurrjens' path to free agency could be affected if he spends two months or more in the minor leagues.
  • Phillies manager Charlie Manuel hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing Chase Utley at first base when he's activated from the disabled list, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. If Utley returns before Ryan Howard, the Phillies could mix things up defensively. "We'll figure that out when we get there," Manuel said. 
  • Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has the unenviable task of replacing Reyes, but as Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com shows, the 22-year-old has already earned the confidence of his team. Meanwhile, Tejada says Reyes was a "great teammate" in New York before signing a $106MM free agent contract with the Marlins this past offseason. 
  • Ken Davidoff of the New York Post suggests there's no rush to lock David Wright up long-term despite the third baseman's hot start. Davidoff points out that it's April and that Wright is under team control through 2013. If he's still hitting this well when summer trade talks begin in earnest, the Mets will face a major decision, but we aren't there yet.

Quick Hits: Wright, Bowden, Jurrjens

The Rays locked Evan Longoria up to a historic six-year, $17.5MM extension on this date in 2008. Then a rookie with just six games of experience, Longoria has since evolved into one of the game's top players. Here are today's links…



Smoltz Talks Returning NL Pitchers

It happens every spring. Pitchers nurse shoulders, backs and elbows to health in preparation for the season. But there are no guarantees for any injured pitcher, regardless of his resume. 

“You’ve got to know what your body can and can’t do,” John Smoltz told me in a recent interview. “Not every pitcher’s going to be perfectly healthy their whole career, so there has to be some degree of discomfort that you have to pitch through. Once you learn how to do that, you’re able to overcome more.”

Jair Jurrjens - Braves (PW)

Smoltz speaks from experience. He recovered from Tommy John surgery to reinvent himself as a dominant closer and worked through shoulder problems to strike out nearly a batter per inning as a 42-year-old. Now an analyst with MLB Network, he recently caught up with a number of high-profile pitchers returning from injuries for his role on MLB Tonight.  

When Smoltz signed with the 2009 Cardinals, Adam Wainwright was at his peak, in the midst of a season that would see him post a 2.63 ERA in a league-leading 233 innings. Two and a half years later, Wainwright’s returning from ligament replacement surgery and expectations are lofty. 

“That’s where Tommy John surgery is a little misunderstood,” Smoltz said. “Adam basically is looked upon this year I think unfairly as a big cog to replace the departure of Albert Pujols and now possibly the delay of Chris Carpenter. That’s an unfair situation for him to go in, since he needs the same kind of time and grace that everybody does returning from Tommy John.”

Regaining full strength following Tommy John surgery took more than a year for Smoltz, who missed the 2000 season recovering from the operation. But he acknowledges recovery times vary from pitcher to pitcher and anticipates a strong season from Wainwright. 

“Can he go back to the Cy Young type numbers? I don’t know,” Smoltz said. “I think it’s a little unfair [to expect that] the first year. But I certainly can see him doing easily some of the things that we’ve expected him to do in that first year.”

Smoltz believes Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson will rebound from a disappointing 2011 season. In fact, Johnson may have benefitted from his team's cautious approach late last season. He didn't pitch after May 16th last year, and Smoltz suggested the Marlins could have rushed him back under different circumstances.

“That’s a luxury," he said. "I expect that everything is where it needs to be and that he’s going to go out there and, unfortunately for the hitters, probably dominate.”

Smoltz last played for the Braves four years ago, but he spent two decades in Atlanta, so he knows the organization as well as anyone. He says former teammates Tim Hudson (back) and Jair Jurrjens (knee) must make most of their starts to have successful seasons. The Braves will be relying on their starters, since a repeat performance from their relievers may be unrealistic. 

“There’s no way the bullpen can do what they did last year with the amount of times they were used,” Smoltz said. “I think the starting pitching has got to find a way to pitch some much-needed innings over the course of the season.” 

A few months ago, the Braves seemed to have an abundance of starting pitching, and Mike Minor seemed expendable. Now that Julio Teheran has been sent to the minor leagues and Arodys Vizcaino is out for the season, Minor’s a key component of the Braves’ pitching staff. “Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make,” Smoltz noted. 

Mets fans who wish their team had never traded for Johan Santana might agree with that sentiment whole-heartedly. But there’s optimism that the Mets will see some return from the $24MM left-hander in 2012. Smoltz says the two-time Cy Young Award winner seems just as motivated as the 26-year-old Jurrjens. 

“They both have the urgency to want to pitch, but it’s different,” he said. “You’ve got a guy in Johan Santana with all of the hardware, big contract. He wants to get out there and compete. I’ve heard nothing but unbelievable things.”

Cy Young Awards are a motivator for pitchers coming back from injury, but contracts also lurk in the background. Even Smoltz, a future Hall of Famer, wasn’t able to generate interest based on his resume alone during his playing days. Successfully returning from an injury can make all the difference when it’s time for a new contract.

“In sports you’re as good as your last impression,” Smoltz says. 

For these pitchers, the 2012 season represents the opportunity to create new impressions and erase old ones. 

John Smoltz will be a game analyst for the MLB Network Showcase schedule this season beginning on Friday, April 20 featuring the Red Sox v. Yankees at 3pm ET. MLB Network will feature a package of live 30 games featuring all 30 Clubs beginning on Thursday, April 5 between the Dodgers & Padres. Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


Quick Hits: Draft Pools, Young, Jurrjens, Prado, Pudge

The city of Montreal will pay tribute to former Expos great Gary Carter by naming a street or other public place in his honor, reports Linda Gyulai of the Montreal Gazette.  City officials will consult with the Carter family to find an "appropriate" location to bear the Hall of Famer catcher's name.  Carter passed away last Thursday after a lengthy battle with brain cancer.

Some news from around the majors….

  • Jim Callis of Baseball America breaks down how much each team will have to spend in the first 10 rounds of the 2012 draft. The Twins top the list, able to spend as much as $12.37MM to sign their 13 picks over the initial 10 rounds, while the Angels ($1.645MM) have the least to spend on their eight picks over the same stretch.
  • The draft pool totals will shift if Derrek Lee — the last free agent with compensation attached to him — signs a Major League deal with a new team.  As Callis notes, however, it's pretty unlikely that Lee will find such a deal at this point.
  • The Pirates and Phillies both passed on signing Dmitri Young after working him out in Florida this months, reports MLB.com's Matthew Leach. Even if Young's baseball comeback falls short, he says the real victory is his improved health, having lost over 70 pounds.
  • Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado are both pleased to still be Braves after a long winter of trade rumors surrounding both men, reports MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
  • Ivan Rodriguez isn't prepared to retire and is keeping in shape for a possible job this season, he tells the Associated Press. "It has been a tough market for veterans," Rodriguez said. "There are a lot of guys who have won championships and have playoff experience to offer teams with no jobs. It's hard to believe.''

NL East Notes: Hamels, Bonifacio, Jurrjens

The two biggest free agent contracts handed out by NL East teams this offseason went to Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle of the Marlins. They signed deals worth $106MM and $58MM, respectively, in December. Here are the latest links from the division…


Braves Avoid Arbitration With Jair Jurrjens

The Braves avoided arbitration with starter Jair Jurrjens on a deal worth $5.5MM, MLBTR has learned. the Boras client can earn another $25K each time for reaching 175, 180, 190, 200, 210, and 215 innings.  With the deal, the Braves have signed all their arbitration eligible players.   


Quick Hits: Manny, Braves, Oliver, Tejada

Some links as Thursday turns into Friday…


Quick Hits: Fielder, Vazquez, Trumbo, Rockies

Links for Thursday night, starting with a pair of notes on the offseason's top remaining free agent… 


Orioles Rumors: Adam Jones, Tommy Hanson, Fielder

The Orioles acquired Jai Miller today and also sent Brandon Snyder to Texas.  The latest on the team…

  • Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com he wants to improve the Orioles' "on-base capability from top to bottom."  Duquette isn't sure he currently has a .380 OBP guy, and isn't sure if his second baseman is currently on the roster.  The free agents with the best 2011 OBPs include Casey Kotchman, Chris Snyder, Carlos Pena, and Pat Burrell.
  • The Orioles haven't made contract with Luke Scott since non-tendering him on December 12th, reports Kubatko.    
  • The Orioles are fairly confident they will add another outfielder, though that wouldn't necessarily portend an Adam Jones trade, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.  The Orioles were not overly intrigued by the Braves' offer of Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado, and a minor league pitcher.  Connolly doesn't see Jurrjens as a centerpiece for a Jones trade.  Instead, the Orioles are intrigued by Tommy Hanson.
  • Connolly notes that an extension remains possible for Jones, who is under team control for two more years.  January is always a big month for extensions.
  • An Orioles source told Connolly they would not offer Prince Fielder the seven-year, $140MM deal Mark Teixeira rejected three years ago.  For the Orioles to sign Fielder, Connolly feels that his market would have to completely collapse, and he finds that highly unlikely.  Connolly reiterates that agent Scott Boras and Fielder "did not meet with [Orioles owner] Peter Angelos despite being in the area – which I thought should demonstrate once and for all that the Orioles really aren’t anywhere near the frontburner of this issue and Fielder's side isn't forcing it."