Is New Brave Jorden Walden here to add to the bullpen, replace someone or is he just passing through? Photo Credit Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Braves Trade for Jordan Walden – Busy In Run Up to Winter Meetings

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.

Value Received

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.

The Numbers

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 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.

Type Selection Velocity Strike Swing Whiff Foul In Play
4 Seam 69.5% 97 65.0% 47.3% 10.4% 21.0% 16.0%
Slider 17.3% 84.3 50.0% 40.0% 23.3% 7.8% 8.9%
Fastball 10.2% 98.7 63.4% 44.1% 10.3% 19.7% 14.1%
Change 2.8% 87.2 52.5% 42.4% 22.0% 10.2% 10.2%
2 Seam 0.1% 95 50.0% 50.0% 0.0% 50.0% 0.0%
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.

123 8 8 34 11 16 3.06 1.291 .225 .350 51 138 10.8 2.71 .311

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.

Other News

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

  1. Martin Prado (29)
  2. Jason Heyward (23)
  3. Justin Upton (25)
  4. Brian McCann (29)
  5. B.J. Upton (28)
  6. Freddie Freeman (23)
  7. Dan Uggla (33)
  8. Andrelton Simmons (22)
  9. <Pitcher>

is a enough to make me smile and I suspect, make pitchers shudder just a bit. That’s a good thing.

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  • Lee Trocinski

    I’m a lot higher on this trade than you are. Walden has a career ERA/FIP/xFIP line of 3.06/2.80/3.18, so luck hasn’t been a part of his success. His 10% walk rate is high, but not debilitating given his K rate. Also, no pitcher releases the ball with his front foot off the ground.

    I feel like a full three-team trade is possible with Upton, Cabrera, and Delgado as the main pieces. The Braves probably have to give someone like Gilmartin to AZ, while the Braves could possibly get Tim Fedroff, an OBP machine who plays all three OF spots, from CLE, while AZ gives up a low-end prospect to CLE. I would start with that outline and go from there.

    Carpenter sits at 93-95, but very flat and his slider doesn’t have much depth either. Doesn’t really hurt much picking him up, but I don’t see him doing much. I don’t see a need for Nix. He’s only played 250 IP at SS in the bigs and they’ve been rather iffy. Also, his 25% K rate is not worth the lack of impact power or ability to hit line drives.

    I don’t get how people think the McLouth trade was ill-advised. At the time, it made perfect sense, looking like a steal. There was no reason to think that he would fall off the map as he did. It didn’t work out, but I think ill-advised is the wrong word.

    • fireboss

      If you look closely at the gif when Walden pushes off his front foot hasn’t landed. Maybe the release isn’t exactly at that point but it’s so close as to make his mechanics hard to repeat. I’ve updated to clarify and correct the post. I don’t think he stays unless Venters, Avilan or EOF go to AZ who said they wanted a lefty reliever and a starter back when this whole Upton trade talk started. Gilmartin, one from Avilan/Venters/EOF and Cabrera fits that if we can get him from the Tribe. Delgado and Jaime might do that but I like Delgado better than most seem to. He doesn’t panic and his poise and pitching were improving when he got that extended run. When he was brought back he got no real chance at another run. He’s a 4 or 5 guy but he’ll have a good career barring injury. Teheran’s arm worries me but he’s the prospect everyone loves so I doubt he goes unless it’s by himself and/or we get somethign else back

      The three team trade has to be in the works. I don’t see the Braves giving up Simmons I really don’t. Carpenter is minor league depth and trade material. Everyone wants to give the GM credit for picking EOF up after Seattle released him but it was just like Carpenter and a hundred others that are picked up and dropped each year, now and then one works out and he’s a genius. The other 99 never count against his judgement. Not saying they should but scooping up released and DFA pitchers and giving them a look is fishing with a seine. Your get a lot of stuff and some of it is edible.

      Nix was just in the news and the guy who the Yanks want to use to back up A-Rod and Jeter next year. I don’t know Fedroff but whoever it is Prado needs to stay put next year so he can settle in.

      Nothing in McLouth’s history indicated that he good few months he had was anything but an unrepeatable hot spot. The Pirates signed him then realized they screwed up and had McCutchen in the pipeline. They kissed the GM told him they loved him and he made the trade. His all star appearance was the Pirates’ gimme that year and his gold glove wasn’t deserved though he wasn’t awful. At the time of the trade he wasn’t the guy Wren wanted him to be – leadoff man, stolen base threat plus gold glove defender. McLouth said in interviews that he believed his best spot was hitting second or third and that he wasn’t comfortable leading off but would do what was asked. The guy who played for the O’s last year is a different player entirely. Stance is different, approach is different and attitude is different. Charlie Morton wasn’t a loss but McLouth wasn’t the player we needed at that time.

      • Lee Trocinski

        Re-evaluating that three-team trade, I agree that those extra pieces from the Braves are probably needed. I’d send Venters and Gilmartin to AZ along with Delgado and Jaime to CLE.

        I agree McLouth wasn’t a traditional CF, but how many guys are such a player? There aren’t more than 10 centerfielders at any time who are both above-average at the plate and in the field. The Braves were probably one of 20-25 teams looking for such a player. Atlanta shouldn’t have tried to make him such a player when he was already productive. Finding players to fit roles is one thing, but forcing players to change to fit roles rarely ends up good.