Braves dump a pitcher (Hanson) they once viewed as gold

Tommy Hanson, once a touted prospect, leaves Atlanta without meeting expectations.

Once a touted prospect, Tommy Hanson leaves Braves with unrealized expectations. (Curtis Compton)

Three years ago, Tommy Hanson was viewed as a precious commodity. The Braves would tell other teams, “Don’t even bother asking about him.” When the San Diego Padres asked about him anyway, as the key to a potential Jake Peavy trade, the Braves laughed. Not Tommy, he’s our guy.

On June 3, 2009, Braves general manager Frank Wren unceremoniously cut Tom Glavine, a future Hall of Famer who was expecting a call-up following a rehabilitation assignment. Why? Because they needed the spot in the pitching rotation for Hanson, who was called up on the same day. The younger Tommy now was their guy.

He was the Braves’ future. He was young and personable, a towering power pitcher who would be a staple of the team’s pitching staff for years.

Now Hanson is gone. Funny how quickly an athlete can go from being untouchable to, “Please, just take him.”

The Braves traded Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels for a reliever, Jordan Walden. This is like not being able to afford a suit at Nordstrom on one day and then suddenly seeing it hanging on a clearance rack at Value City the next. There’s Tommy Hanson, 10 feet from the toaster ovens.

This trade wasn’t made because the Braves suddenly fell in love with another team’s right-handed reliever. It was made because they completely lost faith in the starting pitcher they once fiercely protected and projected as a franchise centerpiece.

The spin you will hear is that the Braves did this to save money. Hanson’s salary was about to jump to $4 million in his first arbitration-eligible winter, and the hope is that payroll chunk can be used to help complete their outfield, preferably for a leadoff hitter. (Shane Victorino would complete this dream sequence.)

But that’s really not what this is all about because if Hanson had become what everybody thought he would become, the Braves wouldn’t blink at paying him $4 million. Or, eventually, $6 million or $8 million, or $10 million. Because that is the status level the organization once projected for Hanson, a top-of-the-rotation staple for several years.

This is why it’s always amusing when fans become apoplectic when an organization trades a touted prospect, as if “MVP” or “Cy Young” is stamped on anybody’s forehead. Hanson was considered a guarantee, and that guarantee was just sent three time zones away for a bullpen guy.

The Braves were concerned about Hanson’s back and shoulder issues. They were concerned about his messed-up pitching mechanics to compensate for those injuries and certainly about his ability in the future to deal with that. His velocity had dropped, and if a power pitcher can’t be overpowering, it’s a problem.

It was a bad season. Hanson wrecked his truck driving to spring training. He dealt with speculative theories about what might have led to that one-car wreck. The injuries and lack of success obviously wore on him. But what upset him most was the growing number of people who viewed him as a pitcher on the decline.

When we spoke about this in August, Hanson said, “I try not to worry about it. I just worry about myself, keep trying to get better, keep trying to keep my body healthy to perform. Anything after that, there’s no need for me to worry about it because people will say what they’re going to say, and they’re going to have doubts and think that there’s something wrong with me, and they don’t know.”

It’s clear, however, that Hanson is at the point where he has to prove to others that nothing is wrong. The assumption now is closer to: little is right.

So much for guarantees.

By Jeff Schultz

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111 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly D

November 30th, 2012
2:38 pm

There are no guarantees in baseball. It’s all “what have you done for me lately?”.

Furman Bisher used to wrote that the woods are full of can’t miss guys who did. Hanson probably is quite in that category but it’s a point worth remembering.

Hillbilly D

November 30th, 2012
2:38 pm

that should say “isn’t quite in that category”.

Leroy

November 30th, 2012
2:39 pm

Baker

November 30th, 2012
2:42 pm

A real bummer for Hanson and I hope he turns it around, but this move definitely not as worrisome as trading for yet another guy who hits around or sub .250.

Doug

November 30th, 2012
2:43 pm

Mick

November 30th, 2012
2:43 pm

Ever noticed how when the Braves trade a player, they end up being great in the next few years?

Pace53

November 30th, 2012
2:43 pm

The fans of ‘the singing cowboy’ in Anaheim will like is easy going manner and demeanor. Happy Trails….

Pace53

November 30th, 2012
2:43 pm

The fans of ‘the singing cowboy’ in Anaheim will like is easy going manner and demeanor. Happy Trails….

Pace53

November 30th, 2012
2:43 pm

The fans of ‘the singing cowboy’ in Anaheim will like is easy going manner and demeanor. Happy Trails….

Dawgs of Anarchy

November 30th, 2012
2:43 pm

Here comes Justin Upton! See ya Tommy and GO DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MVP

November 30th, 2012
2:44 pm

Good Luck Tommy. You’ll be closer to home in Cali. Wish you all the best

steve brown

November 30th, 2012
2:46 pm

the Brave brain trust seems to have a history of can’t miss players missing.

Benjamin

November 30th, 2012
2:48 pm

I actually feel bad for Tommy, who I believe is hurt and not admitting to it. He’s lost about a foot off his fastball, and I’ve never thought his delivery was one that screamed “long term arm health.”

Maybe a change of scenery is what he needs. Always loved the guy, regardless, and still do. Hope he does well in Anaheim…

…meanwhile, there’s a left fielder in Arizona whose brother just signed a mega-deal with us and whom we can now afford, provided we send Jair Jurrjens to non-tenderville, as expected. Stay tuned.

sam

November 30th, 2012
2:51 pm

so now that we’ve traded him, i guess we can expect him to win the Cy Young in a couple of years.

Disgusted

November 30th, 2012
2:53 pm

You don;t win games with scouting reports.

History is full of cannot misses who either missed or flamed out very early.

Hanson has flamed out after two and a half good yrs — he has done nothing since late June of ‘11.

Baker

November 30th, 2012
2:53 pm

@sam: Yeah, pretty much a given

Brave-for-Life

November 30th, 2012
2:54 pm

I have to say, I have never understood or liked Hanson’s pitching mechanic’s, as it had always seemed to me that he was ‘telegraphing’ his pitches, which to my way of thinking leads a pitcher to ’short-arming’ his throws and eventual arm-problems….I’m certain a lot of effort was made to correct his ‘mechanics’ by many, to no avail…Here’s hoping we can ’salvage’ something, and he can get a ‘new start’ with another organization…

Biff

November 30th, 2012
2:55 pm

Good article Jeff, it was obvious he’s not in the future for the expected pitching rotation. He came up the same time as Medlen (who had much lesser fanfare) and my did the expectations switch with them.

Datominator

November 30th, 2012
2:58 pm

Probably a good move for all parties involved: (1) Braves had a surplus of starting pitching, and always seem to have to scramble to fill bullpen spots beyond the late inning staples. Not to mention the extra money WILL be a help to fill that last outfield spot (2) Hanson is from California; he gets to go home to try to put himself back on track (3) Angels need starters – doesn’t look like they will resign Greinke.

Bills fan

November 30th, 2012
3:09 pm

Doesn’t take a serious injury to mess up a delivery. Tommy Hanson already had unusual delivery that was suspect and prone to missteps. For one, wasn’t good at holding runners.

I don’t doubt he gave his all, but injuries can slow the fiercest of competitors. I wish him well and hope that he gets the kinks worked out.

I have to remind myself that the average MLB player is a millionaire playing a kids game. Don’t fell sorry for them. God has been good to them talent-wise and make more than 99% of us.

GTT

November 30th, 2012
3:10 pm

He’ll probably win 20 with an ERA under 3 next season.

DrDave

November 30th, 2012
3:11 pm

Looks like another Wainwright like trade. Braves will regret this for years to come. Sorry to see ‘The Machine Gun’ leave town. Good luck Tommy!

Richard

November 30th, 2012
3:16 pm

Nah, Hanson was done. Good move to get a functional piece with a salary dump trade. Kudos to Wren

retired

November 30th, 2012
3:16 pm

Good luck Tommy …. playing before the home folks on a regular basis . Good no great move for Braves!

scrappy

November 30th, 2012
3:17 pm

Seems Tommy was caught in a numbers game, as much as anything else, with the development of several talented prospects. He hit a rough patch, and he–and the team–paid the price. The competition and the money he will make made him expendable. The trade leaves me quesy, though, anticipating what I hope happens for him: a return to form. Seems like we should have been able to get more for him, though. After all, he did lead the team in strikeouts last year.

RBI

November 30th, 2012
3:19 pm

It made me hurt to watch him pitch. His delivery is horrible. He needs to start over or give it up. Maybe this is the opportunity.

Tommy

November 30th, 2012
3:19 pm

You pessimists have no idea what you are talking about. Have you ever seen Hanson’s mechanics?? It hurts just watching him with that short-arm delivery. He’ll have a torn labrum in a year. I’m glad we actually got a useful player for him instead of paying out his contract insurance in a year or two.

Plus my grandmother could steal a base on him. Compare this to dealing Wainwright?? seriously? Fracouer, Marte, Boyer, and the other couple dozen prospects ruined by being rushed to the majors is a better comparison.

Combine Walden with Kimbrel, O’Flaherty and the rest of the pen, we’ll win 98% the games we lead after the 6th.

Solid move by a team executing a plan.

At least Hanson was...

November 30th, 2012
3:21 pm

…better than Brad Komminsk, and probably Francouer, too…both “can’t miss guys who missed by a long shot (though Francouer is still wildly swinging away at every pitch)..

Hanson Stunk It up! Duh!

November 30th, 2012
3:21 pm

I’m like that eTrade baby who gives his SHOCKED reaction when “Frank” doesn’t win big money for his retirement with his scratch-off ticket.

Hanson has always had fluke written all over him. His motion and mechanics have been trash from day one. Any team that wants to put a star tag on a guy with a motion like he is throwing darts is going to do what the Braves are notorious for doing and that is over value their prospects.

It’s amazing how some professionals who are supposed to know the game can jump on the bandwagon for a guy who had physical breakdown written all over him.

At least we won’t have to hear any more about the mystery behind Hanson’s lack of velocity.

Bobby Walden

November 30th, 2012
3:22 pm

Anyone not a blind Braves partisan could see this coming years ago. His poor mechanics damaged his arm. Remember Gary Nolan from the Reds circa 1970? I thought not. Remember Tom Seaver ? I thought so.

Realist

November 30th, 2012
3:24 pm

Jeff- what “speculative theories” were out there on the car wreck? I never heard any. Just wondering.

joja boi

November 30th, 2012
3:24 pm

There are a lot of people on here saying he will win a Cy Young now, highly unlikely, but if he does good for him. I agree with “Brave-for-life” on this one. I like Tommy as a clubhouse guy, but the injury thing and loss of velocity is (was, not our problem now) a concern. Don’t think we had enough spots in the rotation, especially once Beachy returns.

joja boi

November 30th, 2012
3:26 pm

oh yeah, Good Luck Tommy…

bulldogbubba

November 30th, 2012
3:30 pm

Hanson will probably have an O.K. career like Kevin Millwood.A change of scenery will help to advance his career. GO BRAVES!!!! SIC’EM ! WOOF! WOOF! Anybody seen Mr. Clusters?

Let's Go

November 30th, 2012
3:31 pm

Tommy was “Can’t Miss” for about 18 months and then the Braves and everyone else in baseball saw what he really was and that was a hard thrower with a bad delivery who probably was never going to be more than a 4th or 5th pitcher on any staff. The Braves tried to fix him but high pitch counts and bad velocity were his un-doing and in the long run this is probably best for both of these guys. Jorden Walden has a 3.06 carrer ERA over 114 innings can help the Braves a heck of lot more this year then Tommy would have. Also, Tommy is another Scott Boras guy who the Braves have rid themselves of. Great Trade.

Rodney Hampton

November 30th, 2012
3:36 pm

“There are a lot of people on here saying he will win a Cy Young now”

I guess one is a lot.

Zane Smith's Teeth

November 30th, 2012
3:37 pm

Medlin was called up before Hanson. Everyone was shocked that the can’t miss prospect took a back seat to a short middle reliever. Now look at that decision.

Sklipch

November 30th, 2012
3:40 pm

Yes, there are guarantees in baseball. Contracts. No matter how bad you play you get your money and even when you don’t play or are cut from the team.

Disbott3000

November 30th, 2012
3:42 pm

Sure, Hanson could go west, turn things around, and have a long, healthy, productive career, and I really hope he does. But the Braves couldn’t gamble on whether or not that may happen when his salary is set to skyrocket and we have lots of good, young options available to replace him. The way he pitched the past year and a half, he really couldn’t be more than an overpriced 5th starter for us. Maybe, out west, he will smooth out that crazy delivery of his, get and stay health, and get his career back on track. I hope he does and wish him well.

Hairy Dawg

November 30th, 2012
3:44 pm

Isn’t that what a GM is supposed to do – get rid of (soon-to-be) overpriced players on the decline??

What is the point here?? We have young, cheap arms waiting to go and Wren found a way to save money and (hopefully) picked up a good piece for the bullpen…

Sounds like he may have done a good job….

All I'm Saying Is....

November 30th, 2012
3:46 pm

Kent Mercker, Kevin Millwood, Bruce Chen, Jair Jurgens …weren’t they all can’t miss prospects? Hey, stuff happens. We wish Tommy Hanson the best. He may have a tough time pitching to nine hitters in the AL but hopefully he will do okay as he seemed like a nice fella.

More importantly, Braves need to get a lead-off hitter. I like what I’m hearing about either Dexter Fowler (Georgia native) or Shane Victorino (proven lead-off batter). We have to make a move as the Nats got Spann to lead-off for them which will make their line-up better. I suspect the Phillies are closer to having to sign Josh Hamilton too to try and keep pace but that will just make them more of a swing and miss team with Hamilton, Howard, and that big kid Mayberry along with a declining Utley at second.

LET’S GO BRAVES!

Teddy B

November 30th, 2012
3:47 pm

Goodbye, Tommy! Wren has this knack for tricking the other GMs into taking our garbage, it worked again! So glad we got rid of this guy, best news of the off season even better than signing Upton which was a bad deal for us in the end. This guy isn’t worth 16 mil a yr at the end of the contract, its insulting to Chipper and will be insulting when we try to resign Heyward.

nobobfan

November 30th, 2012
3:50 pm

so, we get rid of an expensive bum (who led the team in strikeouts), in return we get a cheaper bum. WTF???
Now..do something with Uggla…ANYTHING!!!!

JB

November 30th, 2012
3:51 pm

Jeff, The Dawgs are less than 24 hours away from playing their biggest game in the modern era….And we get a blog about the Braves and Hanson……How about next Tuesday for this BIG NEWS……GEEZ.

Furman Bitcher

November 30th, 2012
3:53 pm

This was a good trade kids. We just got rid of a pitcher we didnt need for a young good 8th inning flamethrower.

Stinger2

November 30th, 2012
3:53 pm

JB: There have been enough blogs by the AJC about the Dawgs. YAWN.

blazerdawg

November 30th, 2012
3:53 pm

Always thought TH was a class act and appreciated his professionalism and many great starts. Hope he is able to make some adjustments to his picthing motion and that he enjoys great success in Cali.

Thank you for the effort, contribution, and wins TH!

Stinger2

November 30th, 2012
4:00 pm

bulldogbubba: My comment to JB was not intended to be disrespectful of UGA but to
dispute his contention that the Hanson trade was not newsworthy. I am pulling for the Dawgs to beat Alabame and ND and bring a NC to the State of Georgia. I also believe
Wren (when finished with his offseason work) will have made the Braves a real contender for the NL pennant and WS. Go Braves!

JayD

November 30th, 2012
4:06 pm

Good luck Tommy. If he ever masters a 3rd pitch – He could do some real damage. If not?? – .500 career.

JB

November 30th, 2012
4:07 pm

Who’s live from the ACC title game…………The parking lot attendant from the AJC.