Right handed reliever Jordan Walden throws a fastball that at times reaches 100 miles per hour. Right handed starter Tommy Hanson throws a fastball that’s been getting slower and slower every year. On Friday, the two right handers switched uniforms with Hanson going from the Atlanta Braves to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Walden.
The Braves, who already boast a bullpen featuring three dominant hurlers in Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and closer Craig Kimbrel, now add Walden to work in the middle innings. His addition will allow more days off for the three headed monster at the back end of games in Atlanta; something manager Fredi Gonzalez would like to provide. On days when all are rested, Walden’s presence potentially shortens the game.
Hanson, a year older than Walden at age 26, went 13-10 for the Braves in 2012 and posted a 4.48 ERA over 174 innings and 31 starts. Over the past few seasons, Hanson has seen his average fastball velocity drop from 92.7 mph in 2010 to 89.7 mph in 2012. It’s never a good thing when velocity begins to slip, but to have it happen so dramatically at such a young age suggests that Hanson is unlikely to hold up in the long term.
Still, if Hanson can keep himself on the field in 2013, the Angels have filled one of the vacant spots in the starting rotation. Right handers Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have been shipped out of town and free agent Zack Greinke now seems unlikely to return to the Angels. Even with Hanson on board the Angels will need to add at least one more starting pitcher this Winter.
Hanson is arbitration-eligible for first time this off-season and MLBTR projected a salary of $4 million for the former 22nd round pick. Walden was not yet eligible for arbitration, so this trade does cost the Angels somewhere close to $3.5 million in player salary.
If Hanson can stay healthy, the Angels easily win this trade. No matter how good Walden may become, and he has the stuff to dominate, solid starting pitching is always more valuable than great middle relief, which is what Walden will be in Atlanta. The Braves had a rotation that already lacked a great amount of experienced depth and this deal takes one more piece out of the equation. There are a few high ceiling young arms knocking on the door and the Braves had better hope that one or two of them stand up. GM Frank Wren either has a whole lot of faith in his young starters, or not much faith at all in Hanson’s health going forward.