Atlanta Braves: Was the trade for Joe Jimenez a mistake?
By Eric Cole
Meanwhile, Justyn-Henry Malloy continues to just flat out hit
Malloy's time with the Braves was largely positive. While he didn't always get to his power on a consistent basis, there was no denying that that he could hit. After posting an .822 OPS in 2021 in low-A immediately after getting drafted, Malloy would hit his way all the way to Triple-A in 2022 and his .862 OPS across three levels of the minor leagues with 17 homers to go along with a healthy amount of walks to pad is OBP.
Since joining the Tigers, Malloy has just gotten better. He started the season in Triple-A and through 35 games, he has slashed .320/.450/.492 with five homers while playing third base and designated hitter exclusively. Higginbotham has struggled a bit in his nine appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A, but the winner of this trade was always going to be decided by how well Malloy does anyways.
The jury is still out
So far, things certainly don't look awesome for the Braves end of this trade especially if Jimenez's batted ball characteristics don't improve. One can hope that Jimenez's ability to throw strikes and miss bats will start paying dividends later on, but right now he is just getting squared up too much when guys do make contact to reach that potential. Moreover, this is the only guaranteed season that the Braves have for his services, so they can't necessarily bank on improvement as he is further removed from that back surgery.
That said, Malloy is a tricky one. On the one hand, the guy can just hit and his ability to get on base should be prized along with having some pop. One can only wonder how nice it would be to have a bat with Malloy's profile in the designated hitter spot instead of whatever Marcell Ozuna was doing in that spot up until very recently.
The fit with the Braves was a bit problematic, though. Malloy is not a strong defender at third base or in the outfield. Third base was a nonstarter anyways because Austin Riley exists and while left field has been a problem with this Braves roster, Malloy's defensive shortcomings may have made it where it wasn't a guarantee he would be an upgrade there anyways, so it is understandable that the Braves felt like they could part with Malloy in an attempt to build a really strong bullpen even though the result hasn't been great.
Right now, it looks like the Tigers may have gotten the better end of this deal as it looks like Malloy could be a very good hitter in the big leagues even if his defense is lacking. However, there is still time for Jimenez to turn things around and become a guy that the team can comfortably use in high leverage situations. If that happens, the team could keep him around and in that world, they will probably be happy making the move that they did. You have to give up talent to get talent, so hopefully this move doesn't end up feeling really rough at the end of the season and beyond.