As the Winter Meetings were coming to a close on Wednesday, Alex Anthopoulos, Brian Snitker and other members of the Braves front office and coaching staff were preparing to leave San Diego without making a move. While the Braves being quiet at the Winter Meetings is not unprecedented under Anthopoulos, it was a bit surprising with the amount of activity that had occurred around baseball.
However, as Anthopoulos mentioned on Wednesday afternoon, the Braves time in San Diego had been productive, with progress being on potential moves. One of the moves became official on Wednesday evening:
#Braves acquire RHP Joe Jiménez: pic.twitter.com/VkFZGXIdhw— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) December 8, 2022
Mere hours after seeing their closer in 2022, Kenley Jansen, sign with the Boston Red Sox, the Braves acquired Joe Jimenez from the Detroit Tigers. Jimenez has spent his entire career with the Tigers, and is coming off the best season of his career in Detroit in 2022.
Over 56 2⁄3 innings, Jimenez produced 77 strikeouts compared to only 13 walks, helping to result in a 3.49 ERA. However, a 2.00 FIP and 2.70 xFIP suggest that Jimenez was a bit unlucky when it came to his actual results. A .328 BABIP, the highest allowed of his career, also supports this notion.
A big key to Jimenez’s success was a significant reduction in the amount of walks and home runs allowed in 2022 compared to the rest of his career. Jimenez allowed only 2.06 BB/9IP and .64 HR/9IP, compared to marks of 6.95 BB/9 and 1.19 HR/9 in 2021. Of course, the most evident strength of Jimenez is his above average strikeout rate, as he produced a 12.23 K/9 rate in 2022, which was 13th among relievers who pitched 50 or more innings last season.
Ken Rosenthal provided a bit more context on how the Braves plan to utilize Jimenez next season.
Braves keep bullpen strong after losing Jansen to Red Sox. Jiménez likely will set up for Iglesias, who takes over as the closer. Braves also have McHugh and Yates from the right side, Minter and Lee from the left. https://t.co/gFnEC1HAHl— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 8, 2022
Obviously, trading for a reliever may be a bit unexpected as the first significant move of the Braves this offseason. Furthermore, seeing Justyn-Henry Malloy, who was emerging as one of the Braves best hitting prospects in their farm system for 2023, involved is a bit surprising as well. However, adding to what already was one of the best bullpens in baseball is logical with how Anthopoulos has operated in recent years, as he has placed a high priority on having a deep and talented pen with plenty of strikeout potential. Jimenez fits checks many of the boxes Anthopoulos prefers in a reliever.
Jimenez will be a free agent after the 2023 season, so he will be in a contract year in his first year in Atlanta. Now with their first significant addition made of the offseason, it will be interesting to see what direction the Braves go in next.