The Atlanta Braves continued a busy week, trading starting pitcher Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels for reliever Jordan Walden.
On the surface, this looks like a deal where both parties could benefit from a change of scenery. Walden was the Angels closer as a rookie in 2011, saving 32 games, posting a 2.98 ERA, and striking out 67 batters in 60 1/3 innings. He got off to a rough start in 2012, posting an 8.31 ERA in 4 1/3 April innings. He finished the year with a 3.46 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 39 innings, walking 18 hitters as well.
As for Hanson, the former elite prospect has seen his stock dip in recent years after having several shoulder issues. 2012 was far and away the worst season of his career, as in 31 starts, Hanson posted a 4.48 ERA. He struck out 8.30 batters per nine innings and walked a career-worst 3.66 batters per nine while also allowing 1.39 homers per nine, far and away the worst total of his career. Hanson's velocity has also continually dropped over his career, bottoming out at an average of under 90 mph last season for his fastball.
For the Braves, the acquisition of Walden now allows them to potentially trade a reliever to fill another hole on the team. The most likely candidate seems to be Eric O'Flaherty, who is in his final year of arbitration, and has posted ERAs under 2.00 over the past two seasons for Atlanta. The emergence last season of Luis Avilan as a lefty arm in the pen could make O'Flaherty expendable for Atlanta.
For the Angels, Hanson will enter their rotation picture that is cloudy after Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Zack Greinke is being heavily courted this winter, and his return to the Angels is anything but guaranteed. The team also dealt Ervin Santana to the Royals and Dan Haren is also a free agent, leaving a void after the top two starters on the team. Hanson is now part of a group that includes Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards that will be looking to make their mark and claim a spot in the rotation with the Angels, but I don't think the team would be content going into the season with those three penciled into the rotation.
All in all, a lot of this trade depends on health. When healthy, Hanson has the potential to be an elite starting pitcher…problem is, he hasn't been healthy for quite awhile. The same goes for Walden as an elite reliever who struggles with his command at times. But remember, Craig Kimbrel had control problems for his entire minor league career before becoming the best reliever in baseball in 2012. It'll be interesting to see what we think of this trade in a year.