Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tommy Hanson/Jordan Walden Deal

Greetings! This gets its own post due to general busy times today...

Tommy Hanson is a member of the LA Angels. The former prized prospect of the Braves was shipped in a 1-for-1 deal for fire-throwing reliever Jordan Walden. My first inclination is one of sadness to see Tommy Hanson go, simply because I was all in on Hanson when he arrived in Atlanta from the minors. There was legitimate debate about who was the team's top prospect between him and Heyward (which seems funny now), and he had all the look of a #1 starter with top-end stuff matched with high-end velocity. Then, he posted a 2.89 ERA and a 2.6 Fangraphs WAR in just 21 starts as a rookie, and everything was looking up. That was followed up by two solid seasons with mid-3's ERAs and solid strikeout numbers, showing that, even though he may not have been a #1, he was definitely a #2-type pitcher... until 2012. In 2012, his velocity dipped to under 90 mph on his fastball, and when that happened, his ERA climbed to 4.48 with a FIP of 4.54. Things were even worse in the 2nd half of the season, as Hanson posted an ERA of 5.69 in 13 starts after the All-star break.

Is Tommy Hanson a lost cause? I'd actually say no. All indications are that his shoulder is a serious problem and the likely reason for the velocity decline (and the resulting decline in overall effectiveness). If it was miraculously fixed or Hanson was able to have surgery and give it time to fully recover, he could be a very good pitcher again. That said, he was due $4 million+ in arbitration this season, and on a team that already employs Tim Hudson, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, Paul Maholm, Randall Delgado, and Brandon Beachy, that is simply too much money to be paying for the right to roster (and rehab) Tommy Hanson.

The Braves receive Jordan Walden in return, and he's also a really interesting case study. First off, Walden is making peanuts financially, so the Braves save a great deal of money. Secondly, Walden has a career FIP of 2.80 and a career ERA of 3.06 in 114.2 innings. In short, he's a very good relief pitcher who's value fell for no reason other than he lost his closer job to Ernesto Frieri. Walden has high-end stuff with a fastball in the upper 90's, and it's basically unfair to trot out him, Venters, and Kimbrel at the back-end of the bullpen.

Basically, this is a steal for Atlanta. There was a real possibility of a straight give-away for Hanson (or at least we thought), so to get a real piece who is young and has upside is tremendous. This paves the way for a potential trade of Eric O'Flaherty (outlined here by Ben Duronio of Capitol Avenue Club) and a potential even cheaper bullpen than last year.

All hail Frank Wren... but I also wish the best for Tommy Hanson and if he's healthy at all, this is a nice haul for the Angels.

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