The Los Angeles Angels and Atlanta Braves swapped young pitchers on Friday afternoon in a one-for-one trade. Atlanta sent starter Tommy Hanson
to the west coast in exchange for relief pitcher Jordan Walden
. Both players found success at the major league level at a young age when healthy, but both experienced lingering injuries during the 2012 season.
Tommy Hanson, 26, appeared to have matured into a true ace at the beginning of last season. Over his first 10 starts of 2012, Hanson posted a 3.12 ERA while striking out 50 batters in 57-plus innings. But over his next 10 starts, Hanson posted a 5.86 ERA while striking out 52 batters in 63-plus innings pitched. He finished the season, after missing time for what ended up being diagnosed as a partially torn rotator cuff, with a 4.48 ERA and 161 strikeouts in just under 175 innings pitched. The 2012 season was the second season in a row that Hanson had missed time due to an ailing shoulder. In 2011 Hanson was shutdown in early August after hurling only 130 innings in 22 starts.
Hanson's performance has also suffered the past two seasons, probably a result of his injuries. Since his first full major league season in 2010, his average fastball velocity has dropped
from the lower-mid-90's to the upper-80's, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has dropped below the major league average
, and his homeruns allowed per-nine-innings
has substantially increased. (Graphs courtesy of FanGraphs
In return for Hanson, Atlanta was sent once closer Jordan Walden. Walden emerged as the Angels ninth inning man early in the 2011 season, converting 32 saves while striking out 67 batters in 60-plus innings pitched. Last season the 25 year-old was not as effective, and missed some time due to a bicep strain in his throwing arm. He finished the season with only one save and a 3.46 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 39 innings pitched. Even though his strikeout rate was still a stellar, an 11.1 K/9, his walk rate sat at 4.15 BB/9, which is too high to be an effective closer or relief pitcher.
It appears that both teams are trying to trade away their talented, yet injury-prone young pitchers, in return for the upside of a could be healthy young pitcher. Tommy Hanson will be arbitration eligible for the first time this season, and the Angels are estimated to have to pay him close to four million-dollars for his services in 2013, if they do not try to extend him to a long-term contract. Jordan Walden will be under team control with the Atlanta Braves until the 2016 season, and is not eligible for arbitration until 2014.
Hanson will slide into the Angels rotation in 2013 as long as he is healthy. It is a rotation that figures to see at least one more acquisition to join Hanson, Jered Weaver
, and C.J. Wilson
in Los Angeles. Walden looks to join the Braves bullpen as a right-handed setup man, to compliment the left-handed Jonny Venters
, before the team turns the game over to closer Craig Kimbrel
in the ninth.