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Will Jesse Hahn Be Dealt After One Season Like Alex Torres?

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It looks like the Tampa Bay Rays dealt Alex Torres at precisely the right time. He was coming off an excellent rookie year in the major leagues, putting up a 1.71 ERA and a 62-20 strikeout to walk ratio in 39 relief appearances and 58 innings pitched. Torres looked like he could be a piece of the Rays’ bullpen for years to come and maybe even the team’s future closer. However, there were a few reasons to believe that Torres’ success would not last.

Just one year before, Torres had walked 7.5 batters per 9 innings at Triple-A. Torres’ 3.1 walks per 9 innings ratio in the majors in 2014 was actually his lowest at any level for his entire career. Could Torres really sustain that? In addition, the league may have adjusted to Torres as he managed just a 3.80 ERA and 20 strikeouts against 9 walks across his final 18 appearances and 23.1 IP. Torres didn’t throw particularly hard for a reliever, averaging 93.47 MPH with his fastball, and pairing that with suspect control is not exactly a recipe for dominance.

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The Rays certainly didn’t enter the 2013 offseason with a trade of Alex Torres being one of their priorities, but they listened to potential deals and waited for the right opportunity to arise. It came on January 22nd, when the Rays traded Torres and Jesse Hahn to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Brad Boxberger, Logan Forsythe, Matt Andriese, Maxx Tissenbaum, and Matt Lollis. Coincidence or not, Torres’ walk rate jumped to 5.5 per 9 innings as he experienced middling results for San Diego in 2014, and he currently has 20 walks in 25 Venezuelan Winter League innings as well.

The Rays are looking brilliant for having dealt Torres, but the same isn’t true regarding Jesse Hahn. After entering the year without a single game above A-ball, Hahn dominated at Double-A and impressed the Padres enough that they called him up to the major leagues. The jump did not faze him too much as he went 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA, an 8.6 K/9, a 3.9 BB/9, and a 0.5 HR/9 in 12 starts, 2 relief appearances, and 73.1 innings pitched. Hahn was one of the Padres’ best starting pitchers, finishing behind only Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross in ERA among their starters.

Jesse Hahn looks like the starter that the Padres should have the least incentive to trade. He has electric stuff and won’t even be arbitration-eligible until following the 2017 season. However, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that San Diego would move him in the right trade, and that can’t help but remind us of what happened with Torres.

Hahn looks to be more talented than Torres, but he has some question marks of his own. The Padres had to shut him down this season even though he had thrown just 115.2 innings pitched because Tommy John Surgery and other injuries have limited his workload in the past. Assuming that the Padres increase Hahn’s innings by around 20% each season, he is still three years away from approaching 200 innings–and that is only if he stays healthy.

We can also talk about Hahn’s strikeout to walk ratio slipping to just 34-22 in his final 45.2 innings of the season. The league adjusted to him as well, exposing two major weaknesses with his arsenal: issues commanding his four-seam fastball and a lack of trust in his changeup. Hahn has the ability to overcome those issues, but adding any additional concerns to his major durability questions just makes matters worse.

While Jesse Hahn remains a talented starting pitcher, the San Diego Padres are prepared to listen to offers for him knowing that his trade value may never be higher than this. It would be quite ironic if Hahn’s situation parallels Torres and he is dealt after just one big league season, but it is something that the Padres must consider.

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