The Tigers have announced they have swapped helpers Joe Jimenez to the Braves for those interested 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, throwing 56 2/3 innings with 3.49 ERA balls. Advanced metrics were looking particularly favorable on Jimenez’s work as his FIP was an even 2.00. The right-hander knocked out batters with a well-above-average clip of 33.3% while walking them just 5.6% of the time.
Originally signed out of Puerto Rico in 2013, Jimenez dominated the minor leagues as he made his way through the Tigers’ system and was called up to his big league debut in 2017 with the 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 shot up to 29.2% the following year, and Jimenez posted a 4.31 ERA over 62 2/3 innings with a 2.90 FIP and earned his first trip to the All Star Game that summer.
Like almost every assist, Jimenez had his ups and downs, and while he provided steady relief in 2018-19 as a young arm in the Tigers’ pen, he had a rough couple of years afterwards. In the abridged 2020 season, Jimenez hit 2.8 homers per nine innings and finished 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 soar to 16.7% as he finished with a 5.96 ERA. He has looked dominant this year, however, in what is by far his best year in the big leagues.
Jimenez will likely sit in the back of the Braves’ bullpen. They already have Raisel Iglesias, AJ Minter, Collin McHugh, and Dylan Lee as high-impact relief options, so Jimenez is arming them with another weapon they can use to end games. Jimenez is eligible for arbitration for the last time this winter and is expected to take home a salary of $2.6 million before going free next winter.
When we turn to the prospects the Tigers will receive, Malloy is the headline. He was the Braves’ sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft and made it to triple-A in 2022, but spent most of the year under. At Double-A, he hit .268/.403/.421 with six homers in 238 plate appearances. Defensively, Malloy split time between third base and left field. Since his draft, he has rocketed up the Braves’ standings and was their sixth-best prospect on Baseball America’s recently released 2023 list. While their scouting report raises concerns about its defensive capability, the racquet shows promise and it certainly hits far enough that it could knock on the big leagues door before long.
Higginbotham, 26, threw 51 1/3 innings from the bullpen at Double-A in 2022 and posted a 4.73 ERA. Originally drafted in the 11th round in 2018, Higginbotham’s averaged a 3.30 ERA in four professional seasons in the Braves’ organization. He throws a mid-90s fastball and mixes it with a sinker and a curveball.