Braves Trade Tommy Hanson

The latest from the Hot Stove is that the Braves have traded righthanded starter Tommy Hanson to the Angels in return for righthanded reliever Jordan Walden. Why would the Braves trade a 26-year-old starter coming off a career-high 13 victories for a middle reliever?

Actually, the Braves have several reasons for making this deal, and they all make plenty of sense.

Hanson was electric in his rookie year of 2009, going 11-4 with a 2.89 ERA. I always loved his overhand curve but his mechanics made me want to scream — I predicted in 2010 that he would eventually have shoulder problems. As it turned out, Hanson had some issues and missed about ten starts in 2011, and though he returned in ’12 to make 31 starts, he wasn’t the same pitcher. That shoulder, I bet, was barking all year. But if you don’t trust my opinion (or eye), check the radar gun — Hanson’s fastball averaged about 89 MPH, which is a significant drop from the 92-93 he hummed at in his first two seasons.

Though it looks like the Braves are trading Hanson at his lowest possible value, I’m not so sure — it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hanson miss more games in ’13, and/or pitch even less effectively, causing his stock to sink even more. I think the Braves may actually be selling him at a relatively high point, considering that he made 31 starts — which make him appear to be “healthy” after his 2011 arm woes.

What the Braves receive in return isn’t exactly a sure thing, either. Though Jordan Walden was flirting with triple digits while saving 32 games in 2011, he took a step back in ’12, saving only one game, missing time due to various injuries, and spending part of the year in AAA. If Walden can come back, the Braves have a very scary 6th- or 7th-inning guy. Like Hanson, Walden lost a few ticks on his fastball, but it was still around 96 MPH, which is pretty darn fast. However, also like Hanson, Walden has mechanical issues; his arm is a touch behind his legs, which puts significant strain on the elbow. It wouldn’t surprise me if Walden was in line for TJ surgery before the end of 2013.

In the end, though, this trade was more about financial flexibility for the Braves. By shedding Hanson, the Braves also shed about $4M from their payroll (that’s about what Hanson would receive in his first year of arbitration). My guess is that money will be redistributed toward another free-agent outfielder — perhaps someone like Cody Ross, Angel Pagan, or Nick Swisher. Sure, it will take more than $4M to sign any of those guys, but that’s $4M they can put toward a contract.

I hate to say it, but this deal — from the Angels’ perspective — smells a lot like when they dealt for Scott Kazmir. Hopefully, Hanson’s career won’t take that drastic a turn, but the Braves usually do a good job of evaluating their own assets, and it seems to me that they were hot to rid themselves of Hanson.

Curious: if you were GM of the Mets, would you have traded, say, Bobby Parnell for Tommy Hanson? How about Jordan Walden — would you have tried to make a deal for him? Why or why not? Answer in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. DaveSchneck December 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm
    Interesting deal. I seem to think the Braves know what they are doing with pitching, and their bullpen can be sick good if this guy bounces back to 2011 form.
  2. NormE December 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm
    Based on what we saw of Tommy Hanson last year I wouldn’t have traded for him. He’s not the same pitcher that we saw a few years ago. Can he bounce back? Maybe, but the risk is too high.
    Don’t know Walden well enough to comment.
  3. Reese December 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm
    Another former Braves productive reliever who is a FA is Pete Moylan who has had his injury woes. I wonder if there’s anything left of his arm? He had just 8 games with Atlanta in 2012 but displayed his usual brilliant skill.
  4. argonbunnies December 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm
    Hanson has pitched like an ace in the past. I’d much rather gamble on that than take a reliever whose primary skill is Throw Hard. If some trainer can figure out the right strengthening exercises to allow Hanson to survive his “dart thrower” motion, then he’s worth 6 Jordan Waldens (or Bobby Parnells).

    Seeing as how I hate the Braves, I feel lucky that they’ve got such a constrained payroll that they have to save a few million in deals like this.

    Of course, what’ll probably happen is that Hanson gets hurt and Walden goes through some stretches where he’s striking everyone out…