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Tommy Hanson Trade: Very Bad For The Braves
The Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels pulled off a trade Friday to send former young ace Tommy Hanson to LA, for former young closer Jordan Walden. The initial reaction is that the Braves got the short end of the stick here because they gave up the starter, but the contractual specifics and relative team needs have led many pundits to proclaim the Braves victorious. As the argument goes, there’s some salary calculus that deems Hanson the significantly more expensive player over the course of the respective team controlled years and the Braves have traded from a postion of extraordinary strength. Not to mention, Hanson’s drop in velocity is indeed the biggest of red flags. I’m sorry to share though, that argument is wrong and the Braves got rooked.
It’s true that Tommy Hanson has experienced a drop in velocity (89.6 mph average fastball in 2012), which has rendered him more league average than something to get excited about. His arm and mechanics were always question marks as he advanced through the minors, and issues there have now surfaced at the ripe old age of 26. The drop in velocity has made his slider less effective and left him prone to the long ball. With all that, I still think Hanson has the talent to succeed at the big league level even if he winds up needing significant time off to rest the shoulder. I’m not convinced he’ll ever be able to live up to the superstar/number-one-prospect hype–but that does not necessarily make him Mark Prior 2.0.
With Jordan Walden, the Braves get a guy who throws hard. Really hard. Like scary hard. He earned the closer’s spot in 2011, and promptly lost command and lost the job in 2012. He’s still incredibly talented in that he can throw hard. Did I mention he throws hard? The Braves like that and he makes Fredi Gonzalez’s bullpen even deeper, especially if they bring back Chad Durbin as well.
The main reason I don’t like this trade is that injuries happen. The Braves gave up a guy who they think might get injured for a guy who is inconsistent and is expected to pitch fewer innings. The Braves have traded away another starting pitcher and that’s what makes me nervous. The Braves have six options for the five spots, but that’s depending upon Brandon Beachy coming back midseason. Injuries happen. The Braves used 10 starters in 2012 and were left scrambling for pitchers at the trade deadline. I really don’t want to see history repeat itself, and trading a starter increases the likelihood that the Braves might be looking for starting pitching later on.
The Braves evidently concluded that Hanson became a superfluous in Atlanta with all their starting pitching depth. I guess I’m just of the camp that a starting pitcher can never be superfluous, and the Braves may rue the day they got rid of 26 year old Tommy Hanson.