2008 and 2009 have to seem like a lifetime ago for Atlanta Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, as he looked like one of the best young pitchers in baseball with a 27-20 record and a 3.10 ERA in 65 combined starts in those two seasons.
Things started to go south for Jurrjens in 2010, as a left hamstring issue limited him to 20 starts and he was not particularly good when he did pitch (4.64 ERA). 2011 brought signs of a turnaround, as he went 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 23 starts along with two complete games while earning his second career All-Star selection. But he was also limited by oblique and knee injuries during that season and did not pitch after the end of August.
2012 will go down as largely a lost season for Jurrjens, as a poor start (9.37 ERA in four April starts) led to a demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett. He did not pitch particularly well there, with a 5.27 ERA in nine outings, but came back to the big leagues in June when the Braves lost Brandon Beachy (elbow) for the season.
Jurrjens did well in his first four starts back with the Braves, posting a 2.13 ERA over 25.1 innings, but allowed 14 runs over his next two starts before a demotion to the bullpen and ultimately being sidelined by a groin injury. For the season he posted a 6.89 ERA in 48.1 innings with the Braves along with a 4.98 ERA in 14 total starts for Gwinnett. Injuries are certainly a factor in his performance decline, and advanced data shows a drop in velocity and overall effectiveness that the surface statistics confirm.
Jurrjens is arbitration eligible for the third and final time this winter, and given the fact he made $5.5 million in 2012 the Braves may choose to not tender him a contract. That would make him a free agent, and the Minnesota Twins may be one of the teams that would be interested in signing him. But the Braves could also look to trade him to a team that is seeking pitching in an effort to get something of value, and the Twins may be at the front of the line there as well.
Jurrjens will turn 27 in January, so he still has nice upside potential if he can put the injury issues of the past couple seasons behind him. The Twins would likely not have to give up much in a trade, and the Braves may be looking to add an outfielder this offseason if they lose centerfielder Michael Bourn via free agency. The Twins seem to have some outfield depth in their organization right now, and a former top prospect like Joe Benson may be enough to acquire Jurrjens. Denard Span is also a possibility if Atlanta insists on getting a major league outfielder, though giving him up would be a high price to pay in exchange for Jurrjens alone.