Braves Acquire Joe Jimenez From Tigers

The Tigers have announced they’ve traded reliever Joe Jimenez to the Braves for prospects Justyn-Henry Malloy and Jake Higginbotham. The Tigers will also send cash to the Braves.

Jimenez, 27, was a highly effective member of Detroit’s bullpen last season, tossing 56 2/3 innings of 3.49 ERA ball. Advanced metrics looked particularly favorably on Jimenez’ work, as his FIP sat at an even 2.00. The right hander struck out batters at a well above average 33.3% clip, while walking them just 5.6% of the time.

Originally signed out of Puerto Rico in 2013, Jimenez dominated the minor leagues on his way through the Tigers’ system, and was called up to make his big league debut in 2017. That year was a struggle for him, as he pitched to a 12.32 ERA in 19 innings. A .403 opponent BABIP certainly didn’t help there, and Jimenez would turn things around pretty quickly after that. His strikeout increased to 29.2% the following year, and Jimenez posted a 4.31 ERA over 62 2/3 innings, with a 2.90 FIP, earning a first trip to the All Star game that summer.

Like almost any reliever, Jimenez has had his ups and downs, and while 2018-19 saw him provide steady relief as a young arm in the Tigers’ pen, he had a rough couple of years thereafter. The shortened 2020 season saw Jimenez shelled for 2.8 home runs per nine innings, winding up with a 7.15 ERA. After experiencing a dip in strikeouts that year, he rebounded in that aspect a year later but saw his walk rate shoot up to 16.7% as he wound up with a 5.96 ERA. He looked dominant this year though, in what was easily his best year in the big leagues.

Jimenez will presumably slot into the back of the Braves’ bullpen. They’ve already got Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, Collin McHugh and Dylan Lee as highly effective relief options, so Jimenez arms them with another weapon to use to close out games. Jimenez is arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter, and projected to take home a $2.6MM salary before hitting free agency next winter.

Turning over to the prospects the Tigers will receive, Malloy is the headline piece. He was the Braves’ sixth round pick in the 2021 draft, and made it as high as Triple-A in 2022, but spent most of the year below that. At Double-A, he hit .268/.403/.421 with six home runs in 238 plate appearances. Defensively, Malloy split time between third base and left field. He’s shot up the Braves’ prospect rankings since being drafted, and was their 6th best prospect on Baseball America’s recently released 2023 list. While their scouting report raises concerns over his defensive ability, the bat has plenty of promise, and he’s certainly hitting enough so far that he could be knocking on the door of the big leagues before long.

Higginbotham, 26, pitched 51 1/3 innings out of the bullpen at Double-A in 2022, posting a 4.73 ERA. Originally drafted in the 11th round back in 2018, Higginbotham’s posted a 3.30 ERA across four professional seasons in the Braves’ organization. He throws a mid-90s fastball, and mixes that with a sinker and curveball.

Photo credit: USA Today Sports.

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