Both pitchers might have been considered untouchable by their respective teams at one time, but no more. In advance of baseball's winter meetings that officially start in three days, the Braves dealt 26-year-old starter Tommy Hanson to the Angels on Friday for 25-year-old reliever Jordan Walden. Thoreau-ly fascinating.
In a beard fight, the full ginger facemask Hanson sports would win easily, especially this close to Christmas. But this is a challenge trade of pitching, not facial hair. So it's a little more complicated.
Hanson looked like a future ace — didn't he? — when the Braves called him up in 2009. And Hanson's stats have been good, even if he's been in steady decline ever since. The numbers include a 3.61 ERA and 592 strikeouts in 108 career starts. But Hanson's strikeout rate dipped (as did his velocity) in 2012 as he recovered from a partially torn rotator cuff. He finished with a 4.48 ERA and 27 home runs allowed, along with a career-high in walks allowed in '12. It's sort of a mystery where his career is headed (other than geographically).
Walden blossomed in 2011, making the AL All-Star team, saving 32 games and compiling powerful peripheral stats for the Angels. But he also blew 10 save opportunities (and we know how teams focus on saves) and the Angels didn't use him as a closer in 2012, even as the back end of their bullpen struggled. And when the club signed Ryan Madson to a free-agent contract earlier this week, they gave word that Walden was very available. So, off ya' go.
As for the Braves, they have starting pitching depth, even after non-tendering Jair Jurrjens earlier this week, but they could use another strong right-hander in the pen to help set up Craig Kimbrel.
Still, it seems like they sold low on Hanson.
But everyone has the same scouting reports, the same medical data. Maybe they had little choice. Maybe there's something that will keep Hanson from pitching as well as his beard ... beards. Regardless, the Angels — whom most expect to lose Zack Greinke and Dan Haren via free agency — definitely are getting the player with a bigger potential upside. Even if Hanson is a strong No. 3 starter in the AL West, and not an ace, that's more valuable than most relief pitchers.
As of November, the Angels win the trade! Well done, GM Jerry Dipoto! Tough luck, Real Frank Wren.