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The Trade Market For Atlanta Braves Starting Pitcher Jair Jurrjens

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Braves starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens could be the most attractive trade target this winter.
Braves starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens could be the most attractive trade target this winter.

This tweet from baseball writer (and insider?) Jon Heyman is making the rounds:

Braves seek greinke like deal for jurrjens. Can't blame 'em. Teams that could play include col nyy tex kc bos tor balt cubs

For those unfamiliar with the Greinke deal, last year the Royals sent former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to the Brewers for four players, who were all mostly still considered prospects; Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress. The deal was mainly for Odorizzi and Cain, though the other two players have some potential as well.

Heyman is suggesting that the Atlanta Braves are after a similar package for a pitcher, Jair Jurrjens, who has not come close to the accomplishments that Greinke has. Is the market for pitching this off-season that much better than it was last off-season that a lesser player in Jurrjens could bring the same return as a guy like Greinke, who is considered an ace?

Ben over at Capitol Avenue Club thinks this is a Boras-generated rumor, and Heyman is just the mouthpiece. That's a very real possibility as Boras wastes no opportunity to over-inflate his clients' status. But there may be more to it than that, after all, this is already an off-season where a low-budget team has paid $5 million for Derek fifth-starter Lowe (and I'm not even going to call him an innings eater any more). It's an off-season where C.C. Sabathia was able to hold the Yankees feet to the fire and extract an extra year and $30 more million guaranteed dollars to keep him off the free agent market.

Starting pitching is highly valued every off-season, and this off-season is no different. But this off-season the demand from teams who need starting pitching seems to exceed the supply on the free agent market. (Maybe that too happens every off-season, but this year it appears more widespread.) In this kind of market maybe there is a place for a Jurrjens trade that nets something on the order of what the Royals got for Greinke.

Clearly the Royals went another direction, opting for Sanchez from the Giants, and likely another C-type pitcher. But the Royals aren't really a team that would be willing to commit to acquiring someone like Jurrjens in the first place -- the cost in money and prospects doesn't make much sense. And after all, they just traded away a better pitcher last year.

But there are teams that would probably be willing to come close to giving the Braves what they want for Jurrjens. The Braves are well positioned to trade Jurrjens now, as he enters his second year of arbitration and still has two years left before he's a free agent. He'll be 26 years old next season, and while he has a recent history of nagging injuries, he's still young enough that those concerns likely aren't as important a factor as they would be in a pitcher over 30.

If you look at Heyman's list of teams, there are teams in there that will trade prospects to stay competitive. There are also some middle market teams who would rather acquire a younger less expensive pitcher like Jurrjens rather than spend on an overpriced older free agent like Mark Buehrle. Besides, what other team besides the Braves is offering an All-Star pitcher under the age of 30 in a trade?

The Braves know what they have to trade. They know how rare that commodity is right now. And they should be asking for a lot in return. I also wouldn't be surprised if a deal happened sooner rather than later. Look how quickly the Indians made a play for Lowe. Before bidding wars start for free agents, and teams start thinking how high they are really willing to go to sign some of these guys, a price-controlled pitcher like Jurrjens should be scooped up quickly.

I don't think the Braves will get quite what the Royals got for Greinke, but they'll come close, and they may be able to get two really good young players. The more likely scenario could be one established player (probably an outfielder), and a prospect or two; something like the Braves got from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez trade (only with a much better outfield centerpiece than the Melk Man).