Overall, it was a quiet Winter Meetings for the Atlanta Braves, but they didn't go away empty handed as they swung a deal with the Detroit Tigers for reliever Joe Jimenez late Wednesday evening. Atlanta also received cash in the deal and sent back prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy and left-hander Jake Higginbotham.
“We’ve been trying to acquire him for quite some time,” Alex Anthopoulos said of Jimenez. “We pursued him pretty strongly at the trade deadline last year, but we obviously couldn’t get a deal done. But he’s someone that we’ve had an eye on that we’ve been trying to acquire for quite some time.”
Jimenez appeared in 62 games for the Tigers in 2022 and compiled a 3.49 ERA and a 2.00 FIP in 56 2/3 innings. He struck out a career-best 33.3 percent of the batters he faced.
“We view him as a late inning guy. Fastball, 96-98, very good slider,” Anthopoulos added. “The makeup is outstanding and we did a lot of work on him there and he’ll be a very good fit I think.”
The Braves added Raisel Iglesias to the bullpen at the trade deadline last summer to give them another power right-handed option to go along with closer Kenley Jansen. Iglesias is under contract and will likely assume the closer’s role after Jansen agreed to a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox Wednesday.
“We felt very good about our bullpen last year when we added Iglesias to Kenley and Minter and Lee and McHugh and so on. Obviously with Kenley being a free agent and Iglesias assuming that role, we were short, a power right hander in the bullpen to have what we hope is a very deep, strong bullpen. Obviously, adding a guy like Jimenez really completes it for us.”
“He’s sitting 96 with the fastball. It’s up to 98. It’s got great extension, it’s got some rise and some hop. He throws strikes with it, he gets misses. His slider is a pretty good pitch as well. He can get both sides of the plate, left handed hitters, right handed hitters. We feel like he’s still a young man. We feel that he continues to improve and get better and we just like him as a another late inning piece for Snit to use.”
The move didn’t come without a cost. Malloy advanced three levels during the 2022 season and ended it with a trip to the Arizona Fall League. He was Atlanta’s sixth rated prospect by Baseball American and its only position player in the Top 10.
“It’s always tough. You would love to keep all your prospects, keep all your young players,” Anthopoulos said of the decision to trade Malloy. “Obviously, a nice job by the amateur scouting staff to get Malloy in the sixth round and a fantastic job by the player development staff. He did a really nice job for us and we were excited about him. But, when we signed Riley to that long term deal, we shifted him to the outfield. Obviously, Olson was signed long term at first base. So, third and first were not going to be a position for him in Atlanta. At the end of the day, that was the cost to get him. Always tough to trade young players, but we’re in a position where we have a chance to contend to win a championship.”
Building out a deep bullpen has been a focus for the Braves over the last few seasons. It played a big part in getting to the NLCS in 2020 and came up huge again in 2021 during the World Series run. It is a formula that has worked for Anthopoulos and the Braves.
“You guys know the importance of bullpen depth,” Anthopoulos said. “During the playoffs with off days it’s one thing, but during the season, it’s pretty important with so many games in a row. Being able to have guys have days off. Having a deep bullpen keeps everybody up right, everybody healthy and gives Snit and the coaches more options.”
Atlanta was quiet for most of the Winter Meetings, but the front office was busy behind the scenes. They came into the week with most of their roster set although they do have a few things that they need to accomplish. One of those was adding a power righty to the bullpen which has now been checked off the list.
“I do think you get to the meetings, you get towards the end of December, holidays, things like that and you know that at some point, some dominoes need to fall to continue with your offseason,” Anthopoulos said.
“We knew that if we could, we wanted to add to the bullpen a power right hander. Again, it wasn’t just going to be doing it for the sake of doing it. It had to be the right guy. So this was the guy we were trying to get and it just took time to finally get there. But again, it’s nice to get this done.”