As Frank Wren heads to Nashville for next week’s winter meetings there’s been a flurry of activity fueled by trades and the new CBA. The headline this week was of course the Braves overpay for B.J. Upton – don’t get your knickers in a twist, everyone agrees it was an overpay – and the Nationals trade for Denard Span to be their leadoff man and center fielder the next day. There’s excitement in around the hot stove as the NL East starts to look as much like a beast as the AL East. Today the Braves surprised no one when they nontendered Jair Jurrjens and Peter Moylan. They also swapped Tommy Hanson for Angels reliever Jordan Walden – @JWal51 . If Hanson’s departure is a surprise you weren’t really watching as his velocity dropped and along with it his ability to get batters out. I’ve said several times Hanson needed a new start with a new pitching coach and wouldn’t be a Brave next year. Let’s look at what the Braves got in return.
First and perhaps the benefit most unnoticed by fans is the $4 million the Braves don’t’ have to pay out in payroll this year; Walden is pre-arbitration eligible so he’ll make the league minimum ($490,000.) The extra money leaves payroll room for a top of the line left fielder if they choose to spend it there. Jon Paul Morosi (
@jonmorosi ) of Fox Sports says he believes the Phillies might be forced to make a splash by signing Josh Hamilton and in an interview on MLB Tonight suggested that the Braves have too few Uptons in the outfield and Justin Upton is the GM’s target. He went on to say the holdup was an unwillingness to trade Andrelton Simmons .While I’d love to see the younger Upton patrolling left field at the Ted, I’m not sure that I want to send Simba to Phoenix to get him. The Braves have rebuffed all offers for him so far and will hopefully think more than twice before letting a talent like his leave. More on that later, back to Jordan Walden.
Jordan Walden was drafted by the Angels in the 12th round of the 2006 draft, coincidentally four rounds ahead of Kris Medlen A check at Texas Leaguers.com shows why. Walden has a big arm. Make that a BIG arm. His fastball lives between 97 and 99 has touched 100mph, his slider stays around 88.
|Source: Texas Leaguers|
He also has a weird delivery – probably an illegal delivery but many deliveries these days are. When he
releases the ball pushes off the rubber there’s a period when both feet are off the ground. You can see a gif of it in this Fangraphs post. Being airborne is good for birds mot so good for pitchers. Weird motions like his can be deceptive but are also hard to repeat and lead to control issues. His arm earned his the closer job in Anaheim in 2011 when he earned 32 saves. Unfortunately control issues resulted in 10 blown saves as well. In 2012 he lost his job to Ernesto Frieri and a bicep strain in August ended his season. His career numbers are mostly his 2011 numbers. He had 16 appearances and one save in 2010 then in 2012.
Walden looks like an added power arm at the back of our bullpen to go with Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty and Luis Avilan; a replacement for Chad Durbin. Big arms are nice but do we need another back of the pen reliever? We have Venters, Avilan, O’Flaherty, and were in talks with Durbin. We also have Cory Gearrin and other arms waiting in the minors so why a mercurial pitcher like Walden?
Win Lose or Draw?
Whether the Angels or the Braves won the deal is a matter of opinion and depends on your view of Tommy Hanson. If like me (and Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs) you think he’s got shoulder issues the Braves came out better. If you believe that Walden will never be able have consistent control is sure to develop arm issues the Angels did better. The real answer may be determined by what the Braves do with Walden.
While I suppose the Braves could be trying to create a six inning game with a Venters Walden O’Flaherty, Craig Kimbrel bullpen it could also be that they are about the make a trade of one of the first three in order to get a left field bat.
Making Morosi’s Feeling A Reality?
I mentioned that Jon Morosi said in MLB Tonight that he thought the Braves were in talks with the D’Backs to unite the Upton brothers in Atlanta. Obviously Simmons would be a huge loss and leave us with Paul Janish and Tyler Pastornicky at short until Nick Ahmed arrives but, perhaps a Simmons isn’t the only option. It’s possible the GM is looking to trade for another shortstop – say Asdrubal Cabrera – then flip that player with others to Arizona. The Indians need pitching and we could include Sean Gilmartin in a deal to get Cabrera then add one of the lefties to Cabrera and maybe another player to pull Justin Upton into left field to play alongside his brother. All of this is speculation of course and the Braves could trade Simmons in an effort to put together a team where all of the starting players except the Dan Uggla was under 30 years old. Stranger things have happened and it’s an exhilarating idea but currently only speculation and wishful thinking.
The Braves were busy on the waiver wire on Friday claiming right-hander David Carpenter the Red Sox. In 2012 Carpenter threw 32 1/3 innings between the Astros and Blue Jays compiling a 8.07 ERA with a 2.012 WHIP and 8.6 K/9. He had a better year in 2011with 2.93 ERA and a 1.482 in 27 2/3 innings for Houston.
The Yankees designated Jayson Nix for assignment today as well. Why is this in a Braves blog? Utility infielder Nix had a line of .243/.306/.384 in 202 PA last year and avoided arbitration by signing a one-year $900K contract today. Chad Jennings of The Journal News Tweeted the Nix has agreed to accept the assignment in order for the Yanks to make room for Mariano Rivera on their 40 man roster. If he clears waivers that is. If he’s claimed the Yankees pay him and he goes to the claiming team. Nix plays short, second and third pretty well and considering we could well need a player like that when Prado become the everyday third baseman, it would be a nice fit. It probably won’t happen – honor amongst GMs and all that – but GMs ignore that when it suits them and sneaking a man through waivers sometimes fails.
That’s a Wrap
The trade of Hanson was always going to happen this off season. he was declining under pitching coach Roger McDowell and didn’t adopt the change in mechanics suggested last off season. When told to go to Gwinnett for a rehab start or two he pouted. Those things do not work well on the Braves, ask Jason Marquis and others who have taken a similar approach. The idea that Justin Upton may come play alongside his brother is almost unworldly to Braves fans who have seen a make do approach in recent years. It seems the departure of Chipper Jones along with the expiration of the financial commitments for Derek Lowe and the ill advised trade for Nate McLouth may have freed the front office to do something that shows a longer term focus and gives the fans something to get excited about. I won’t hold my breath waiting for Upton the younger’s arrival however. Deals of this magnitude are tricky and the smallest thing can upset them particularly if multiple teams are involved. A move for Lorenzo Cain. Wil Myers, Jedd Gyorko or Nolan Arenado while not as exciting, could be just as effective. Still a lineup of
- Martin Prado (29)
- Jason Heyward (23)
- Justin Upton (25)
- Brian McCann (29)
- B.J. Upton (28)
- Freddie Freeman (23)
- Dan Uggla (33)
- Andrelton Simmons (22)
is a enough to make me smile and I suspect, make pitchers shudder just a bit. That’s a good thing.