This offseason the Boston Red Sox are desperate for pitching. John Lackey is down, there are question marks in the back end of the rotation, and they need to make a big move. The free agency pool is less than stellar, which means Ben Cherington will have to get creative if he wants to solve the pitching woes in Fenway.
Atlanta has as much young pitching as the Walking Dead has zombies. For those of you who do not follow the hit graphic novel based in Atlanta, Georgia, it means they have a lot. The Braves are desperate for a top of the order bat, particularly one of right-handed persuasion. They are weak in the outfield and left side of the infield. I smell a great trade opportunity.
The Atlanta Braves have made it clear that they are shopping Jair Jurrjens. The 25-year-old had a stellar 2011, going 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA. Jurrjens is a pitcher who does not fit in one category; he works a lot of groundballs, but offers devastating pitches that can punch hitters out. His best weapon is stellar control, allowing him to paint the zone like Van Gogh. The fact that he relies on Atlanta’s clumsy defense when pitching, and has such good numbers, is an indicator of his potential.
However, like most things in life the potential for high rewards means high risk. From 2008-2009 Jurrjens was averaging 6.2 innings per start. 2009 saw the right-hander eat up 215 innings over a league leading 34 starts. In the last two seasons, the Braves have been lucky to get 20 starts out of the young ace. Jurrjens has been battling injures since ’09, and it has kept him under 200 innings and 30 starts two years in a row.
After a disappointing 2010 that saw Jurrjens make only 20 starts and pitch 116.1 innings, Atlanta was hoping for a comeback campaign. Their prayers seemed answered as Jurrjens burst out of the gates in 2011, going 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA while averaging 6.88 innings per start, all before the All-Star Break. However, all good things must come to an end. Pain in his surgically repaired knee during the second half resulted in a 1-3 record and 5.88 ERA in seven post All-Star Game starts. Jurrjens was eventually shut down on through September.
So, what are we looking at for trade proposals?
The Best Case Scenario
Boston sends Carl Crawford, Jed Lowrie, Bryce Brentz and Sean Coyle, with cash, to Atlanta.
Atlanta sends Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado to Boston.
As I said, this is the best-case scenario and has a low probability. The Braves receive Carl Crawford who is an ideal number two hitter for the top of their order. True, he struggled in Boston, but a change of scenery might be just what he needs. In order to give Atlanta some financial breathing room Boston would have to kick in at least $50 million, which would cover about half of Crawford’s remaining contract. Jed Lowrie gives the Braves a utility bat who can hit anywhere in a lineup, while Bryce Brentz provides an outfield prospect with a high offensive ceiling.
Meanwhile, Boston receives the front line starter they desperately need in Jair Jurrjens. Injury risk is the last thing the Boston rotation needs, but Jurrjens is only 25 and has a high ceiling. Martin Prado is another player the Braves have been shopping, and he could bring high rewards to Boston. Prado is a utility guy on the diamond, but an everyday player with a bat. The 28-year-old had a down trodden 2011, due to injuries, but his 2010 numbers (.307/.350/.459, 15 home runs) show offensive upside. His right-handed bat would bring balance to Boston’s lineup while providing support in the lower part of the order.
Why is this deal unlikely? Well, Boston is taking on a lot of injury risk with both players. They are also paying a lot of money for Crawford to play elsewhere (though that might not be such a bad thing). Atlanta has to hedge the entire deal on the belief that Crawford bounces back. This potential trade rides and dies on both sides’ evaluation of the speedy left fielder.
A More Realistic Trade
Boston sends Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick, Che-Hsuan Lin and Mike Aviles to Atlanta.
Atlanta sends Jair Jurrjens and Kris Medlen to Boston.
*Could include a "player to be named later" from Boston; possibly a lower level infield prospect such as Kolbrin Vitek, or Oscar Tejeda
This is a much safer deal. Both teams trade from their strengths, with Boston tossing in two outfielders and infielders, while Atlanta tosses in a bullpen arm with Jurrjens. Lowrie and Aviles provide massive defensive depth, while both players have potential to be everyday two-hole hitters. Che-Hsuan Lin’s prospect label rests on an amazing outfield glove, but his advanced understanding of the strike zone could develop into offensive skills. Reddick is the key to the deal, garnering Atlanta a young, high power ceiling outfielder with strong defensive instincts.
The trade helps Boston fill major pitching holes. As already stated, Jurrjens provides the Red Sox with a high ceiling starting pitcher. Kris Medlen provides some relief for the bullpen. The right-hander would be a reliable middle reliever, something Boston was without in 2011.
These are just two of many possible trade scenarios between these two teams. Despite his injury risk, Jurrjens is still only 25 and has high upside. He could be just what the Boston rotation needs, providing a workhorse arm with ace like numbers. Boston has positional depth in the outfield and infield, and if Atlanta comes calling there is no reason Ben Cherington should not listen.