There has been speculation for quite a while now that the Atlanta Braves could be looking to move one of their starting pitchers for an outfield bat, and ESPN's Buster Olney weighed in on the issue in Thursday's column (insider required). Here is what he had to say regarding the Braves:
Their evaluators are checking around for available bats, and the Braves are loaded with young pitching to deal.
Some rival executives have wondered if that pitching depth would allow Atlanta to consider a very bold move with a pitcher whose stock has reached its zenith -- Jair Jurrjens, who is 10-3 with a 2.07 ERA and a midseason candidate for the Cy Young Award. If the Braves actually dangled Jurrjens in the market, they could put themselves in position to get an impact offensive position player in return.
Just to reiterate: All the discussion among rival evaluators about Jurrjens is pure speculation.
While Olney is correct that it would be a very bold move for Frank Wren and the Braves, it would also a very smart move to at least dangle Jurrjens to other teams who are drooling at the aspect of acquiring a young, talented, proven starting pitcher. Why? There are a few reasons.
For one, Jurrjens is a near-one of a kind on the trade market. Teams simply don't get the opportunity to acquire a young, cheap pitcher like Jurrjens in July. Instead, they're contemplating whether or not it's worth it to pay Ted Lilly or Bronson Arroyo millions of dollars for two months of service. Outside of something bizarre happening, Jurrjens would be the biggest and best name on the trade market next month and Frank Wren knows it.
Secondly, Jair Jurrjens' value is at the highest it'll ever be. He's relatively cheap, is experiencing the best year of his career and is still under team control for another two years of arbitration. He'll get less money in arbitration than he would on the open market and that has to be very appealing to GMs around the league. That also gives Wren even more leverage in a potential deal.
Finally, while Jair has been a great guy to watch in Atlanta, he (and Derek Lowe) are the two that make the most sense to potentially trade. Since Lowe is locked down with his massive contract for another year and a half, Jurrjens is likely the one to leave. While he isn't too expensive to keep around, he is a Scott Boras client and the odds of him staying in Atlanta once his contract runs out is minimal. It's sad, but it's the way Boras works.
This all adds up if the Braves are going to acquire a proven position player. The next thirty days or so will show who the contenders and pretenders are and teams will be looking for any starting pitching they can get their hands on. Jair Jurrjens is a very good, young pitcher, but quite simply the Braves have better options and Jurrjens would go a long ways in helping them find the bat they have been searching for.