Several years ago, Tommy Hanson was regarded as one of the elite pitching prospects in baseball. He broke in with the Atlanta Braves in 2009 and finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting. He was durable enough in 2010 to deliver more than 200 innings. But very little has gone right for him since.
Hanson’s ERA has climbed every year he has been in the majors — reaching 5.42 last season with the Angels, as he coped with tragedy off the field. Hanson spent time away from the team because of what he told the Los Angeles Times were mental issues following the death of his stepbrother. The Angels non-tendered him after the season.
Now a free agent, Hanson represents an intriguing gamble in an inscrutable pitching market. He’s 27 and has been relatively healthy during his major league career. A team could sign him to a one-year deal for 2014 and benefit from an additional year of control, because he won’t have enough service time to file for free agency until at least the 2015-2016 offseason.
The Texas Rangers are in the midst of talks with Hanson, one major league source told FOX Sports on Thursday. The Rangers are trying to add rotation depth, with starter Derek Holland expected to miss the first half of the regular season after knee surgery.
Hanson’s new agent, Greg Genske, said Thursday that he has received multiple contract offers for the right-hander.
"He’s in a great place, mentally and physically, and really looking forward to the 2014 season," Genske said.
Even if Hanson becomes 80 percent to 90 percent of the pitching prospect he once was, his new team will have a valuable back-end starter for 2014.
Cuban complication for Stephen Drew
As Stephen Drew waits for the Red Sox to bring him back or the rival Yankees to sign him as insurance for Derek Jeter, his outlook could be affected by a new entry to the middle-infield marketplace.
Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, suspended last year by Major League Baseball for providing a false birthdate, is scheduled to be reinstated Feb. 19. And the Yankees and Red Sox are among the teams that have shown interest in him, according to a December report by Jesse Sanchez of mlb.com.
"There’s a lot of interest in him," Diaz’s agent, Jaime Torres, said Thursday. "He’s in Arizona working out right now."
Because of the suspension and lengthy procedure to establish residency and become a free agent after defecting, Diaz has played a relatively small number of games over the past year. Still, he could provide the Yankees with an in-house, long-term successor to Jeter. The Yankees might need such a player as early as this year, if Jeter’s injury woes recur.
Torres represents another highly regarded Cuban defector, right-handed starter Odrisamer Despaigne. Torres said Despaigne could receive his visa to the U.S. within the next several days. Once that happens, he’s expected to start throwing for teams.
Taking attendance as camp nears
Professional scouts can be busy at this time of year, even without MLB games to watch. The showcase circuit for rehabilitating pitchers is particularly active, with agents eager to show evaluators that their clients are healthy again.
One prominent example: Ryan Madson, the once-elite Philadelphia Phillies reliever who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011. Madson signed one-year contracts with the Reds and Angels over the past two seasons but never was healthy enough to pitch in the majors. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012.
But Madson is scheduled to throw before scouts Friday in the Phoenix area, according to his agent, Damon Lapa. He’s likely to throw most — if not all — fastballs, but Lapa said he’s encouraged that Madson has reached 92 mph already and is "100 percent healthy."
Lapa declined to mention which teams will be represented, but the Yankees and Tigers are among the projected contenders interested in adding one more bullpen arm.
Meanwhile, agent Craig Landis offered updates on two of his free-agent starters: Joe Saunders is "fully healthy" and will pitch this year; Jon Garland, meanwhile, doesn’t plan to pitch in 2014 unless the right circumstances come along. (Landis made clear that Garland isn’t retiring.)