Is Angels' Trade for Tommy Hanson Sign They Expect to Lose Zack Greinke?
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The Los Angeles Angels acquired a starting pitcher on Friday (Nov. 30), but not the one the team has devoted its offseason to re-signing.
Hanson is coming off a mediocre season in which he went 13-10 with a 4.48 ERA in 31 starts for the Braves. He began the season by recovering from a shoulder injury, then suffered a concussion from an auto accident during spring training. Hanson also went on the DL with a back injury during the year.
How far Hanson's stock had fallen is surely indicated by the Angels getting him in a straight up, one-for-one deal for a reliever who had lost his job as the team's closer. Hanson was presumably a trade chip the Braves could have used in a trade to get an outfielder, but this seems to show that there wasn't much interest around MLB.
With the Angels getting a starting pitcher, however, one question that comes to mind is whether this move is a sign that the team doesn't expect to re-sign Zack Greinke.
That's probably jumping to conclusions. For the reasons stated above, Hanson shouldn't be considered any kind of replacement for Greinke, other than the fact that he's a pitcher and throws right-handed.
Trading for Hanson is a move that Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto likely would have made regardless of whether he keeps Greinke in Anaheim.
The Halos need starting pitching after declining Dan Haren's option and trading Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals. Jerome Williams was a candidate to be non-tendered before Friday's deadline, but the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna reports that Williams will be offered a contract.
Hanson is eligible for arbitration for the first time, but will still be cheaper than the $15.5 million Haren would have earned had the Angels picked up his 2013 option. CBS Sports' Danny Knobler is among those who project Hanson to get a $5 million salary through arbitration next year.
Dipoto certainly could have done worse than pick up a 26-year-old starter capable of making 34 starts, throwing 200 innings and striking out more than eight batters per nine innings. The condition of Hanson's shoulder is surely a concern, but giving up Walden wasn't a heavy price to pay.
A rotation with Hanson slotting in to the No. 3 spot behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson would be pretty good. Of course, that rotation would look much better—and deeper—with Greinke near the top and Hanson as the fourth starter.
Perhaps it was a preliminary meeting before negotiations ramp up during next week's winter meetings in Nashville, with Greinke and his people telling the Angels what they're looking for, what other teams have expressed interest and so forth.
But the Angels likely see what most everyone else who's involved with or covers MLB sees. The Dodgers can afford to pay Greinke more money than any other team in the sport. If he is their top offseason target, the competition probably doesn't stand a chance.
Unless Greinke is so comfortable in Anaheim that he's willing to pass on the additional money the Dodgers offer, it seems likely that he'll be pitching his home games in Chavez Ravine next season. Otherwise, we'll get to hear several reporters and analysts talk about all the money Greinke "left on the table."
For the Braves, their bullpen gets another rocket arm to go with Craig Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters. Atlanta had the second-best bullpen ERA in MLB this season at 2.76 and Walden likely won't hurt that. He struck out 11.1 batters per nine innings, which would have been only second to Kimbrel among Braves relievers this year.
The Cardinals and Giants have shown how important a strong bullpen has been in winning the World Series over the past three seasons. Atlanta matches up even better against any team in late innings now.
Another benefit for the Braves is that they can put whatever money Hanson would have cost for 2013 toward getting the left fielder the lineup still needs. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's David O'Brien points out, trading Hanson and non-tendering Jair Jurrjens (which is expected to happen Friday) provides some payroll flexibility.
Atlanta will probably have to go to the free-agent market to get that left fielder after the Minnesota Twins traded Denard Span to the Washington Nationals on Thursday. The Colorado Rockies' Dexter Fowler has also been mentioned as a possibility. But with Hanson now traded, will the Braves want to part with Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado anymore?
Outfielders like Cody Ross or Shane Victorino could be in play for the Braves now that they have more money available.
This looks like the kind of deal that actually may have helped both sides. The Angels get the starting pitcher (and possible insurance) that they needed, while the Braves cleared salary and strengthened an already potent bullpen.
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