Trade Analysis: Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden
Baseball’s GMs and player agents have kicked off the annual rite of the Winter Baseball Meetings. This is peak season for player trades and free agent signings. Expect to see the biggest names (Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourne) to sign at or shortly after the meetings, and a flurry of trades.
Braves Trade SP Tommy Hanson to Angels for RP Jordan Walden
The Anaheim Angels headed into the offseason with bold plans in mind for their starting rotation. They fired a first step by trading Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals and did not pick up Dan Haren’s 2013 option. These moves indicated a team confident it could fill the rotation holes behind Jared Weaver and CJ Wilson, with free-agent jackpot Zack Greinke.
Shortly after signing a closer in Ryan Madson, the Angels have acquired SP Tommy Hanson via trade to fill one of their SP rotation holes. The move is curious on multiple accounts. The Angels bullpen was not a strong point in 2012 and removing key RP Jordan Walden weakens the bullpen nearly as much as Madson’s addition is helpful. More interestingly, was the acquisition of Hanson for the rotation. Hanson started his MLB career with the Braves in 2009 with much fanfare, posting a 3.28 ERA over his first 460 innings. However, he spent time on the DL in 2012, posted worsening command (career worst in BB and HRs allowed) and worsening pitch velocity (average pitch velocity down from 92 to 89 between 2010 and 2012). It’s widely accepted that Hanson is facing more serious arm ailments and was clearly on the outside of a crowded Braves starting rotation.
The Angels’ willingness to acquire such a risky asset may be indication they’re not so confident of inking Greinke to a long-term deal. The Angels team is built to win-now, so GM Jerry DiPoto had to act decisively to fill his rotation holes, and Hanson was clearly low-hanging fruit to shore up the back of the Halos’ rotation.
As baseball finances are increasingly determined by teams’ mega long-term TV deals, the Atlanta Braves will become one of MLB’s relative have-nots. Time Warner’s 2007 sale of the Braves to Liberty Media included a sweetheart 25-year TV deal that will hamstring the Braves’ TV revenues (and thus, payroll ambitions) as teams sign mega deals in the current baseball climate. As the Braves addressed their number one positional need with the signing of BJ Upton, there was clearly little payroll space for a high-risk, increasingly pricey asset such as Hanson. GM Frank Wren did very good to unload Hanson near his peak value.
In return, the Braves acquire a high-leverage reliever in Jordan Walden. Walden is a high-effort, two-pitch (fastball and slider) right-handed RP that nets strong whiff rates (11.08 K/9 in 39 2012 innings). He does have problems issuing walks (more than 4 BB allowed per 9 innings). Watching his delivery, there’s a high likelihood that Walden will face elbow issues as the innings mount on his arm. However, the Braves are acquiring an impact arm for late innings that will likely delivery strong value over his remaining two arbitration years before larger arm issues crop up as he approaches free agency.