The Braves traded Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels for former closer Jordan Walden on Friday, clearing a spot in the Atlanta rotation for Julio Teheran, Randal Delgado or another young starter.
Hanson has seen a decrease in his velocity as he battled rotator cuff tendinitis in 2011 and a lower back strain in 2012. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said the 26-year-old was a consistent winner in four seasons with the Braves and had no arm troubles this year.
"It's a good risk on a pitcher we really believe in," Dipoto said.
Hanson was 13-10 this year, setting a career high in wins, but his ERA climbed for the third straight season to a career-worst 4.48. The right-hander was 45-32 with the Braves.
Asked whether he was hoping for a bounce-back season from Hanson, Dipoto said his scouts saw Hanson performing on a level consistent with his career.
"I don't know that we're necessarily looking for a bounce back," Dipoto said. "He won 13 games. I don't think it would be fair to qualify it as a disappointing season. ... His velocity remained consistent from month to month. Our scouting reports remained consistent with what we've always thought of Tommy. He's done it for four years at the big league level, and we think he'll continue to do it."
Hanson missed the last two months of the 2011 season with the right shoulder injury. Dr. James Andrews found a small tear in Hanson's rotator cuff. Hanson said Andrews offered reassurance by saying "three of four pitchers had what I had."
Hanson said Friday the injury affected his offseason work before the 2012 season but said he has changed his workout plan this fall.
"I think toward the end, I didn't feel I was as strong as I need to be," Hanson said of this season. "I think as the years have gone along I've learned how to have a better understanding of how to stay healthy and be strong. I think it was a little bit of a learning experience last year and I'm looking to improve."
Hanson was 10-5 with a 3.71 ERA before the All-Star break and 3-5 with a 5.69 ERA in the second half. He was on the disabled list from July 31 to Aug. 17 with a lower back strain.
Hanson, who was born in Tulsa, Okla., said his family moved to Southern California when he was 2 and he was a longtime Angels fan.
Hanson said he was going to get a haircut as he prepared to attend Braves closer Craig Kimbrel's wedding on Saturday when he was informed of the trade. He said he quickly moved past his immediate shock and is "extremely excited" to be joining the team he cheered for growing up.
"Where I grew up there's a ton of Angels fans," Hanson said. "I grew up going to Angels games. ... Immediately I was shocked and now I'm just excited. I wish spring training was tomorrow."
Walden had 32 saves in 2011, then lost his closer's role to Ernesto Frieri and was 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA and one save this year. He became superfluous when the Angels agreed this week to a $3.5 million, one-year contract with Ryan Madson.
Walden gives Atlanta another power arm for its bullpen. His fastball has been closed at close to 100 mph, and he had 48 strikeouts in 39 innings this year.
"We've been focused on adding a power arm to our bullpen all offseason," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "We felt if we added one power arm we would have a bullpen that would stack up with the best bullpens in our league. Jordan Walden has closing experience and the kind of arm that will stack up well in a seventh- and eighth-inning role for us."
Atlanta's rotation returns Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm and Mike Minor. Brandon Beachy, who had right elbow ligament-replacement surgery in June, could be back during the second half of the season.
Wren said there will be room for a young starter to emerge for the start of the season.
"We feel like we have a lot of guys that are lining up close to helping us," Wren said.
Hanson was expected to earn about $4 million, possibly clearing more payroll room for another offseason move. The Braves are expected to move Martin Prado from left field to third base as a replacement for Chipper Jones, who has retired.
"We're still looking for left fielder-leadoff guy, but I don't know if that is connected with this deal," Wren said. "We just felt with the way our rotation lined up next year, it would be a good fit to add a guy like Jordan Walden."
The Braves on Friday declined to tender 2013 contract offer to two former prominent members of their staff, right-handed pitchers Jair Jurrjens and Peter Moylan.
Jurrjens was 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA in only 11 games this season. He made his last appearance with Atlanta on July 31. Moylan, a former top setup man, appeared in only eight games.
Atlanta also claimed right-hander David Carpenter off waivers from Boston. The Angels claimed outfielder Scott Cousins off waivers from Seattle.