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Friday, November 30, 2012

Angels Trade Jordan Walden For Tommy Hanson

Per MLB.com and countless other media, though the first mention I can find so far (cribbed from Halos Heaven) is a Jon Heyman tweet from CBS Sports. Hanson has been said to have lost considerable zip on his fastball, which dipped below 90 MPH for the first time on a regular basis this year. Fangraphs is first out of the post with analysis, and it basically matches my own thinking:
The question, then, is exactly how much better Tommy Hanson makes them. He makes them at least a little better, because he’s a fifth starting pitcher on the roster. Previously there was no one in that slot. But there’s a reason the Braves didn’t have Hanson in their projected rotation, and there’s a reason the Braves gave him up for a reliever, even though he’s under team control another three years. The Tommy Hanson that exists now is similar in many ways to the Tommy Hanson that used to exist before, but when it comes to pitching, there are alarming differences.
For my money, and given the Angels' dire situation with the bullpen early in the 2012 season, sending Jordan away is no small matter. I don't like recent acquisition Ryan Madson's inability to stay healthy. Madson had Tommy John surgery this year, so he's going to be back at some point in the 2013 season, though just when that might happen is still an open question. Even though my rule of thumb for UCL repairs is 18 months, that number is now down to a year, but we'll see how it goes. Even then, there's no guarantees, and while I didn't like Jordan's lack of movement — he could throw hard but not fool anybody — it seems we are deeply into "devil you don't know" territory here.

I'm okay with getting rid of Ervin Santana — the Brandon Sisk deal was exactly the sort of thing you can do, though it was risky exercising his option and then trading him. On the other hand, Santana showed an elbow ligament tear on an offseason, post-trade MRI, so this could easily have been the beginning of his own Tommy John surgery and perhaps a shot at redemption. But that won't be in the Angels rotation. Likewise, I'm fine with the prospect of Haren going away, and Greinke (though the jury is still out on whether that happens, the Dodgers are apparently the lead team there). For this to work, we have to believe that Hanson is at least going to fill out the fifth starter role effectively, and I'm not entirely sold on that.

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Good to see some activity here again, Rob, and I'll respectfully disagree with your assessment. Apart from last year, Madson has been fairly durable and, as you observe, can reasonably be expected to return fairly early in the season (if not by Opening Day). Madson has a better track record than Walden, whose extremely violent delivery has already led to shoulder and elbow issues in the past, and may be a ticking time bomb. Of course, I recall reading similar hand-wringing in this very space about K-Rod some years ago, yet his elbow has been the least of his problems since leaving the Angels.

In any case, Madson can probably deliver a performance that at least equals the best one might have expected from Walden. Meanwhile, Hanson fills a true need (i.e., someone to take the mound to start every 5th day). Even if he does exactly what he did last year, that's the equivalent of the 2012 Dan Haren, for $10 million less.

I'm also comfortable with the idea of the Angels trading their #5 (at best) 45-inning reliever for a 175-inning starter this year, rather than see the team get embroiled in a 5- or 6-year deal for the likes of the underwhelming Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson or Kyle Lohse, or rely exclusively on rolling the dice with reclamation projects like Shawn Marcum.

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