Saturday, December 1, 2012

Instant Trade Analysis: Tommy Hanson to the Anaheim Angels

Atlanta Braves get: RP Jordan Walden

Anaheim Angels get: SP Tommy Hanson

On first glance...what the hell are the Braves thinking? Hanson is a 25 year-old starting pitcher, who's still under team control for four more years. Though coming off his worst season yet (4.48 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and his lowest SO/BB ratio of his career), the now former Atlanta starter owns some sterling numbers of a 3.61 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.4 SO/9, and a 110 ERA+ over his three and a half Major League seasons.

In return? Jordan Walden, a relief pitching strikeout machine with palpable flaws. Once christened the opening day closer for Mike Scioscia's squad, Walden soon feel out of grace with the team, posting a brutal April ERA of 8.31. However, after being quickly demoted in favor of Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri, the young fireballer settled down, posting a 2.46 ERA with 42 punchouts in 34 innings. Walden still allows too many hits (though mostly line drives, not homers), he's pumping pure gas up there and simply over-powering hitters. There's no doubt that he'd be one of the any team's better relievers if he looked more like the guy from May to September rather than the the Byung Hyung Kim lookalike he was in April.

However, the bottom line is that Walden is a hard-throwing reliever and Hanson is a potential #2 starter. By the very principle of value, trading a reliever for such a high-ceiling starter makes no sense. On the surface, it looks like Frank Wren is spending a little too much "extracurricular time" with Atlanta hawks forward Josh Smith.

So to make sense of this, we deferred to Braves fan and friend of the blog The King. According to my man who I talked to on the phone today, Hanson, who was not so secretly terrible in 2012, but also was noticeably terrible in his last few starts of 2011...and then was out the rest of the year with injury. In his last five 2011 games, he allowed 24 earned runs, 36 hits and 8 homers in 26 innings (though he still struck out 33!). Hanson was later diagnosed with a slight tear in rotator cuff, and quite frankly, hasn't looked the same since then. There's a sense amongst Braves fan that perhaps Tommy has been irreparably changed by the operation, and even though he's been able to strike out batters with pure speed, the control that once existed is no longer there. The shine, it would seem, has definitely worn off a bit from when Hanson was the organization's number one prospect.

Going back to Walden, it doesn't speak well of the trade that the Braves already have several extremely effective relievers in the historically dominant Craig Kimbrel, as well as Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty. Adding another high-powered reliever seems like an unnecessary personnel move, but then again, Atlanta is also looking at a 2013 starting rotation that's now going to feature several young pitchers, including possibly Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor. Going deep into games isn't going to be a preseason forte of the Braves' starters, so having yet another potentially destructive reliever is a good idea.

Finally, the Braves were, as is well documented, trading from a source of strength. Just today, they traded away Hanson and non-tendered Jair Jurjjens, and yet, Atlanta is still six-deep in the starting rotation, seven if you include a midseason return for the dominant Brandon Beachy from Tommy John surgery.

For the Angels, this is a moderate-risk, high reward trade. The downside is that they might have just traded a young, controllable closer for a starter that might be junked. However, the upside begins with the fact that the Angels have options to close in Downs and Frieri, and as I mentioned, starters are far more valuable than relievers. Anaheim is looking at a rotation with only two reliable hurlers in CJ Wilson and Jered Weaver, and three spots in flux without the recently departed Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. Hanson, is working at full capacity, could ably fill in the void that's been there with the ex-Angel tandem's deep dip in performance last season.

There's a chance that this could just be a year long injury and Hanson will be back to striking out a batter per inning starting in 2013 Ultimately, the Braves would have just traded a great young pitcher with years of team control left, one of the game's most valuable assets. But as it looks now, they traded a starter for a potentially fantastic, All-Star type reliever who strikes out batters by the boatload and will be need this year in a likely to be often used bullpen. This isn't nearly the heist that everyone is making it out to be, though the Angeles unquestionably won the trade for the moment. 

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