The Los Angeles Angels are banking on a pair of risky recent pitching moves to improve their beleaguered pitching staff.
On Friday, the team traded reliever Jordan Walden for Atlanta Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson; and acquired free agent Ryan Madson, signed this past Wednesday to a one-year, $3.5 million deal loaded with incentives (h/t AP writer Greg Beacham).
Hanson, 26, was once a top-tier prospect for the Braves, possessing a well above-average fastball and curveball with decent command. In four seasons with the club he totaled 592 strikeouts to only 219 walks while averaging an ERA of 3.61.
But his numbers dropped in 2012, along with his velocity, and possible injuries to his back and shoulder caused concern for his future, according to CBS Sports' C. Trent Rosecrans.
In 2012, still with the benefit of the pitcher-friendly Turner Field, Hanson posted his worst ERA (4.48) and allowed 27 home runs in 174.2 innings. His control wasn't the same. His breaking pitches didn't have the sharp drop like seasons past—spinning like the pinwheel on a frozen MacBook instead.
Because of his reported issues, Hanson found himself placed in unfamiliar territory: trade bait.
The Angels, possibly foreshadowing the non-signing of Zack Greinke, quickly pounced on the right-hander, certainly understanding that Hanson's price tag won't be overly expensive.
If he does work out for the Angels, filling in as a solid No. 3 starter, then it can be the youthful answer for the rotation, replacing arms like Trevor Bell that didn't work out in past years. But it's still a risky gamble, regardless if losing Walden is not.
Then there is the case of Ryan Madson.
Madson, who is coming off ligament-replacement surgery (Tommy John surgery) is also an unknown factor.
The doctor that did the procedure, Dr. Lewis Yocum, reigns as the Angels' team physician so the organization has first-hand knowledge of Madson's recovery, according to Tim Heany of KFFL.com.
But remember this: Yocum is a doctor, not a fortuneteller.
Although Madson is well ahead of schedule in his recovery, according to Beacham’s article, a pitcher’s arm and the subsequent performance won't be known until the bats start swinging in March—perhaps even into the summer months
Until then, while there is hope Madson will be in the closer role and complimenting Ernesto Frieri towards the end of games, all Angels' fans have to go on is Madson's excitement to be in Southern California. GM Jerry Dipoto resonated that scenario saying this:
He's very enthusiastic, and clearly loved the idea of playing for the Angels, which isn't something you can take for granted. Somebody getting to do something they've wanted to do for their whole lives creates a very romantic edge to it.
Take that, Zack Greinke? Perhaps the Angels want you to want them...like the Cheap Trick song.
Regardless, both moves can help the Angels' pitching staff. However, players labeled with the injury bug and velocity/control problems, like Hanson and Madson, always make for a risky situation.
It can also leave the organization and GM Jerry Dipoto in trouble if it doesn't work.
After all, the Angels already passed on two of their past pitchers, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren, because of control and injury issues. And the news of Zack Greinke's whereabouts may not be enough to hide that come opening day.