Braves General Manager Frank Wren is a busy man. On Wednesday, he hauled in the first big free agent catch of the 2012-13 off-season, signing outfielder BJ Upton to a 5-year deal.
Today, RHP Tommy Hanson was shipped to his native SoCal, heading to the Angels in return for hard-throwing reliever Jordan Walden. If you’re not familiar with Walden, here’s a quick rundown.
2013 will be Walden’s 4th big league season. He boasts a solid 3.06 career ERA, with 138 strikeouts in 114 innings. He served as the Angels’ closer in 2011, saving 32 games that year (though he did blow 10 saves). His fastball tops out in the 98-100mph range. When he commands his secondary pitches, he can be unhittable at times.
Tommy Hanson is a sad story for Braves fans. He was once thought to be the next John Smoltz, and for a while there, there was some resemblance. At the All-Star break in 2011, Hanson was 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA. That on the heels of very solid rookie and sophomore year efforts. But Hanson’s velocity dropped in each of the last 3 seasons. And after shoulder trouble around the mid-way point of ’11, he was never really the same. With a once-mid-90′s Smoltz-like fastball reduced to a considerably more hittable straight 88mph heater, Hanson saw his ERA climb to 4.48 last season.
With the top four rotation spots accounted for, Brandon Beachy due back in mid-2013 and big young arms looking for a chance to break in, Hanson was expendable. To take that a step further, with a ’13 price tag of around 4 million dollars Tommy Hanson was, in fact, dead weight.
Here is why this deal made so much sense:
First, the Braves strengthened their bullpen considerably with the addition of a strong right handed late-inning arm. And they surrendered only a superfluous piece to get that arm. Jordan Walden is young and cheap; still a year away from his first year of arbitration. He could help this Braves bullpen for years to come.
Second, moving Hanson clears space for young talent. Either Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran will likely start the season in Atlanta and, at least until Beachy’s return, will have an opportunity to convince the Braves they belong.
And finally, the trade frees up cash. Clearing the 4 million or so Hanson would have earned from the payroll gives the Braves a lot more flexibility in their hunt for a left fielder (or third baseman) and a leadoff man. The Braves had around 10 million dollars left to spend before the Hanson trade. Now, they have about 14 mil to play with.
With that payroll flexibility, the Braves can very comfortably bid for the services of an outfielder like Angel Pagan, Cody Ross, Shane Victorino or even Nick Swisher. It may also open new trade possibilities.
The Hanson/Walden trade left the Braves with an even stronger bullpen and plenty of cash to spend. With looser purse strings and a fully stocked tank of trade bait, it is a safe bet the Braves are not done dealing this winter.