Alex Anthopoulos is probably the best general manager in baseball, and he’s up there with the best GMs in all of sports. The way he has set this team up for sustained success is incredible. The Braves will be among the favorites to come out of the National League for the better part of the next decade. However, no general manager bats 1.000. All of them, including Anthopoulos, have missteps. Look no further than Marcell Ozuna, who is currently on one of the worst contracts in all of baseball, and AA may have made another one in a trade with the Tigers this past offseason.
Coming off a career year, the Braves opted to trade for right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez. With Kenley Jansen heading to Boston, it made sense for the team to bring in another high-powered arm. In 2022, Jimenez posted a 2.00 FIP, 3.49 ERA and struck out 12.2 batters per nine innings. He was missing bats at an alarming rate, featuring a high-90s fastball and wipeout slider.
Unfortunately, Jimenez’s superb season ended with an injury, as he was shut down in September with a lumbar strain in his back. The issue lingered into Spring Training, and while he was ready for Opening Day, he hasn’t looked very much like the pitcher he was in 2022.
Through six appearances, Jimenez owns a 3.60 ERA, which is far from abysmal, but the underlying metrics are worrisome. His FIP and WHIP sit at 4.73 and 1.600, respectively. His Baseball Savant page is also littered with ice cold blue.
Joe Jimenez’ Baseball Savant page isn’t pretty. Velocity down too on all pitches. Hopefully it’s just a matter of his back getting more healthy and stretching out pic.twitter.com/BlTAYEL9pU
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) April 18, 2023
The eye test backs up the advanced metrics. Even though it’s a minuscule sample size, Jimenez has not looked encouraging early on this season. His velocity on his fastball is down by more than 1 MPH compared to last year, and his slider is down by over 2 MPH. That’s undoubtedly made him much more hittable, and it’s become apparent Brian Snitker doesn’t trust Jimenez nearly as much as other guys who were acquired for pennies in comparison.
That’s why the trade for Jimenez has the potential to be a gut punch for a while. In return for his services, the Braves traded away one of their top prospects in the organization — Justyn-Henry Malloy.
Malloy may not have been highly touted nationally, but he rose up the ranks of Atlanta’s farm system with a breakout 2022 campaign. Across three levels (High-A to AAA), Malloy racked up 17 homers, 28 doubles, and recorded an eye-popping .408 on-base percentage. Those are the numbers of a player in the minors with All-Star potential, but the Braves must not have seen what they needed to believe in him, selling high on him for a major-league ready reliever.
Typically, I trust Alex Anthopoulos and his staff blindly when it comes to evaluating their own talent, but early on, this is looking like a misstep. Malloy is hitting .383 with a staggering .547 OBP and 1.036 OPS this season. It may only be 14 games, but those are some unbelievable numbers over any stretch, especially when he only played in eight AAA games prior to this season. Malloy is looking like a very capable player that can make it at the major-league level, and if he keeps hitting like this, it won’t be long before he finds himself in Detroit.
It’s only April, so calling either side a winner or loser is far too premature. But if I were the Tigers, I would be very content with what I got in return. The Braves, on the other hand, probably aren’t thinking as positively.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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