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Explaining the Hanson-Walden trade

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider
The Braves didn't want to spend $5M on Tommy Hanson while the Angels had big needs in their rotation. (Getty Imagese)

The Braves looked at Tommy Hanson and saw $5 million they could better spend elsewhere.

The Angels looked, and saw a bargain.

So when the Braves offered to trade them Hanson for hard-throwing reliever Jordan Walden, the Angels jumped at the chance. The deal was completed Friday.

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So which team is right about Hanson?

It's possible they both are, if the Braves are able to turn that money into the leadoff hitter they still need, and if Hanson is able to slot in behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson as the Angels' third starter.

The Angels had big needs in the rotation, with Ervin Santana traded, Dan Haren's option declined and Zack Greinke very likely heading elsewhere as a free agent. They had big needs, but probably not the big money it would take to chase Greinke or a high-profile free agent replacement.

Hanson is arbitration-eligible for the first time, and he'll likely make somewhere around $4.5 million or $5 million in 2013.

That would be nothing, if Hanson had fulfilled the promise he showed as he shot through the Braves' farm system and entered the rotation as a 22-year-old rookie.

But he hasn't. His ERA has gone up every year (to 4.48 in 2012). His fastball velocity has declined every year, according to fangraphs.com. And while he is said to be healthy now, the concerns about his shoulder aren't far enough in the past for comfort.

Still, $5 million isn't much for a 26-year-old pitcher with double-digit wins in each of his four big-league seasons. And yes, whether the stat guys like it or not, wins do matter when it comes to determining what pitchers get paid.

If Hanson looked like a disappointment to the Braves, he still looked like a bargain to the Angels.

Walden was expendable, after falling behind Kevin Jepsen, another hard-throwing reliever. The Angels signed Ryan Madson and will still look to upgrade the bullpen, but for them, Walden seemed a small price to pay for a major-league starter.

Hanson, a Southern California kid who grew up in Redlands and pitched at Riverside Community College, seems to be a nice fit.

The Braves will add Walden to their impressive bullpen, assuming he can overcome some of the inconsistency issues that plagued him in Anaheim.

But for them, Friday's deal is more about shifting resources to where they're more needed.

Even without Hanson, the Braves have a rotation of Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Paul Maholm. They have Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran available for the fifth spot, with Brandon Beachy expected to return at midseason after recovering from elbow surgery.

They could have kept Hanson, but they should be fine without him. He has more value to the Angels, who are suddenly short on starters, than to the Braves, who have plenty of them.

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