The Baltimore Orioles made a move yesterday as they signed free agent RHP Jair Jurrjens to a one year, Major League deal, for $1.5 million and could be as much as $4 million with incentives. The Atlanta Braves non-tendered him after he made $5.5 million in 2012.
Jurrjens, now 27, was a hot commodity a year ago as it was even rumored that the Orioles could have traded Adam Jones for the pitcher, but nothing materialized. Good thing Baltimore did not go through with that as Jurrjens had a terrible 2012 putting up a robust 6.86 ERA and in ten starts for the Braves last year he only threw five or more innings three times. Atlanta demoted him to AAA and he remained there for most of the 2012 season.
His struggles in 2012 came as a huge surprise considering his 2011 performance. Jurrjens was selected to the National League All-Star team in 2011 and he posted a 13-6 record with a miniscule 2.96 ERA in 22 starts that season.
Why the struggles in 2012? The answer is two fold, first, in 2011 his fastball averaged 91-92 MPH, but in 2012 it averaged just 88.6 MPH and losing velocity at such a young age is alarming. Secondly, his command seemed to disappear as his walks per nine innings ratio in 2012 was 3.35 as opposed to just 2.61 in 2011.
The signing comes as a bit of a surprise as Baltimore was still in talks with Joe Saunders about the possibility of re-signing him, but does the signing of Jurrjens eliminate those talks? That answer is not immediately known, but Jurrjens is the exact type of player the Orioles love to sign, a guy who was good once, is coming off of an awful season, and they hope returns to his once good form.
Jurrjens will now be in a very crowded group of pitchers that will be competing for a spot in the Orioles' starting rotation that can be considered to be as many as 11 pitchers competing for five spots. Having said that, in my opinion four of the five spots are spoken for in Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman leaving just one spot for seven guys.
Although this signing could be a steal if Jurrjens were to actually return to his 2011 form, but one can't help but to feel skeptical with Jurrjens' loss of velocity at such a young age. Honestly, I look for the Orioles to either place him in AAA or release him, much like they did last year when they signed Dontrelle Willis or Jamie Moyer.
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