The Red Sox Trade for a Closer (Hanrahan) … Again.

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Thursday, January.10,  2013

Joel Hanrahan had 76 Saves over the last 2 Years with the Pittsburgh Pirates - including 2 straight ALL-Star Appearances. He will be throwing down in the 9th Inning for Boston now.  Picture Courtesy of Marc Smilow

Joel Hanrahan had 76 Saves over the last 2 Years with the Pittsburgh Pirates – including 2 straight ALL-Star Appearances. He will be throwing down in the 9th Inning for Boston now. Picture Courtesy of Marc Smilow.

By Nicholas Rossoletti (MLB Reports Trade Correspondent):

Back in 2005, the Boston Red Sox brought up a 24 Year Old flame throwing phenom. Seven seasons, a World Championship and 219 Saves later, Jonathan Papelbon and his fastball had become something of Boston baseball lore. Papelbon was the kind of big strike out, big personality that fans grow to love at the back-end of a bullpen. From 2007-2011, Papelbon never posted a K/9 under 10.00 and never had less than 30 saves in a season. It seemed like Papelbon would become Boston’s answer to Mariano Rivera until the Phillies swooped in and signed Papelbon to a 4 year/50 Million Dollar Contract before the new CBA was even agreed to during the 2011 off-season. Suddenly, Boston was without its ALL-Time Saves Leader and in need of a new stabilizing force in the back of their bullpen.

After Papelbon signed in Philadelphia, the Red Sox went out and acquired Andrew Bailey from the Oakland A’s to fill the closers role. When the trade happened, the perception was that Andrew Bailey was the best player in the deal. The Red Sox acquired Bailey and OF Ryan Sweeney for OF Josh Reddick, INF Miles Head and Right Handed Pitcher Raul Alcantara. Bailey was coming off a 24 save season where he was worth less than 1 WAR (Win Above Replacement). It is important that we differentiate perception with reality at this point.

Joel Hanrahan Highlights from 2010-2012

Jonathan  Papelbon led a rockstyle life while being the closer in Boston.  It is one of the hardest pressured gigs in all of baseball

Jonathan Papelbon led a rockstyle life while being the closer in Boston. It is one of the hardest pressured gigs in all of baseball.

While Bailey was the clearly the “name” in the trade, Reddick was worth almost a full win more than Bailey in the 2011 season. Additionally, Bailey has a history of injury troubles that have led him to only totaling 75 saves from 2009 through 2011. More importantly, Bailey’s peripheral statistics tell a tale of a late-inning Relief Pitcher who isn’t the same kind of dominating strike out pitcher as the player he was replacing. Bailey had a K/9 of 7.71 in 2010 and 8.86 in 2011. Obviously, the perception has changed. Josh Reddick went from a 1.9 WAR player to a 4.8 WAR, 32 HR run producer, and Bailey struggled again with injuries leading to a season where he saved only 6 games for the Red Sox.

It would have cost Boston very little to give Reddick regular Plate Appearances in Right Field to examine him more closely. Instead, they choose to acquire a slightly above replacement value reliever. Fast-forward to last week, and Boston has made yet another move in an effort to replace Jon Papelbon. The Red Sox went out and acquired closer Joel Hanrahan, formerly of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In exchange for Hanrahan and INF Brock Holt, the Pirates received OF Jerry Sands, INF Ivan De Jesus, Jr., RHP Stolmy Pimentel and RHP Mark Melancon. The Red Sox new manager, John Farrell, has already announced that Hanrahan will be the closer in 2013, which makes sense given the state of the job last year. This deal is a clear indication that the Bailey deal was at least for the time being, not what the Red Sox expected. The good news from the Bailey trade is that he will most likely still be on the roster in 2014 at a cost controlled rate so the Sox will still be able to generate some value from Bailey in an 8th inning role and perhaps the closer role in 2014 as Hanrahan will be an unrestricted free agent.

As for the Hanrahan deal, it is a fairly easy deal to explain from both ends. On the Pirates end, Hanrahan is a luxury item with only one more season of team control. For a luxury item, Hanrahan was not particularly good last year. Hanrahan’s FIP (fielding independent pitching) was 4.45. Fielding independent pitching measures the things a pitcher can control (walks, strike outs, HBP and home runs). It’s an interesting way to judge a large sample size of a pitcher’s actual performance on the bump by taking the defense and luck out of the equation. Hanrahan’s FIP has significantly increased from 2011 to2012, and it went from an elite level to a below average level. In 2012, he was worth -.4 WAR. In fact the only perpherial that wasn’t fairly disturbing was Hanrahan’s 10.11 K/9. All of this paints a picture of a pitcher who had taken a large step backwards during the 2012 season.

Considering that Hanrahan is in his last year of his arbitration eligibility and is headed towards Free Agency, the Pirates made a fairly easy decision to part ways with a potentially regressing relief pitcher whose cost is increasing. The Pirates have re-signed Jason Grilli to take over as the club’s closer. While Grilli is significantly older than Hanrahan, his peripherals paint a picture of a more successful pitcher in 2012, and he is locked in to a cost controlled short term deal as he signed a 2 year/$6.75 million deal earlier in the winter.

The Red Sox traded a group of ancillary prospect pieces for Hanrahan. The Red Sox traded Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus, Jr., who were two of the assets acquired in last August’s blockbuster deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers. Jerry Sands is a 25 Year Old Outfielder – whose biggest trait in the Minors has been his power. His ISO at the Minor League levels have been fairly spectacular, but his power in his limited Major League at At-Bats have been below average. The best thing to say about Sands’ major league performance so far was an above league average BB rate during his 2011 appearance with the Dodgers. Hopefully, the Pirates will be able to provide extended plate appearances to see if Sands’ patience and minor league power ever take root in the majors. It seems unlikely though given the presence of Starlin Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Travis Snider, Alex Presley and Jose Tabata that a spot for Sands will open up in Pittsburgh without another move or two taking place.

Ivan De Jesus, Jr. is a 25 Year Old middle infielder who has had a couple cups of coffee in the big leagues. In his time in the big leagues, De Jesus has shown little to no efficiency with the bat. His BB rates are below league average and K rates are atrocious. He hits for almost no power whatsoever, and some would argue his saving grace is his middle infield defense. A cursory review of his UZR would paint a different picture. De Jesus has actually been a fairly decent offensive weapon at the minor league level so there may be some hope that given more major league playing time he will develop. As with Sands, I’m not sure I see a direct route towards that playing time in the Pittsburgh organization.

Additionally, the Red Sox dealt Stolmy Pimentel, who seems to be little more than minor league depth at this point. His Double-A numbers are fairly atrocious, and at this point, there really isn’t much reason to go too into detail into his future until he starts to show us something at the minor league level.

melancon had a great 2011 campaign with the Houston Astros - going 8-4 with a 2.78 in 74 Appearances and 20 Saves.

Melancon had a great 2011 campaign with the Houston Astros – going 8-4 with a 2.78 in 74 Appearances and 20 Saves. He is looking to bounce back with the Pirates in 2013 after 41 Appearances and a 6.20 ERA in 2012 for the Boston Red Sox.

The really intriguing pick-up for the Pirates is Mark Melancon. Melancon was a Yankees farm hand for several years until he was dealt to the Astros, from Houston to Boston and now to the Pirates. Melancon has traditionally been a very effective relief pitcher at the Minor League level who has struggled once called up. While last year he showed his traditional inconsistency at the major league level, his peripheral statistics showed some interesting traits. His walk rate is 2.40 was an all time low for him in the majors and he closed the season on a very high note. The Pirates have to hope that Melancon provides them a younger option for the future of the back-end of their bullpen as Jason Grilli is in his mid-thirties. Overall, the Pirates did well enough to acquire several pieces to add to their upper-level depth in exchange for one year of Hanrahan and Holt, who is essentially a decent middle infield bat with little major league experience.

In exchange for these ancillary pieces, the Red Sox acquire a proven closer whose peripherals in 2011 were in line with the idea that he was an elite back-end reliever and middle infield depth in Holt, who has hit for average but little power in four seasons in the minor leagues. The Red Sox entire strategy this off-season has been slightly confusing. After dumping Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in order to change the team’s culture and dump bad contracts. During the offseason, the Sox have added several aging pieces in Shane Victorino, potentially Mike Napoli and Hanrahan, which is unusual for a team that many assumed was re-building after the August blow-up trade.

While the Hanrahan trade really doesn’t provide much risk for the Red Sox as the pieces are replaceable assets, the question for the Sox is whether this is a year that they hope to compete for a championship or if this is just a bandage to appease a demanding fan base while they try to open up the World Series window in the future? I think Hanrahan can probably get his peripherals back in line to be a above league average closer as his strike out rates are strong. If he does, I think Red Sox fans will be happy with their bullpen, but I’m not sure how the rest of the pieces of this team fit together yet. Only time will tell if this team is ready for the prime time or is spending money just for the sake of it. Either way, the Hanrahan trade is a fine risk for Boston on a one year deal, and in my opinion, it was probably one of the better, if not the best move, they have made this offseason. That being said, I still think come 2014, they will be looking for another way to replace Jon Papelbon.

Hanrahan is Arbitration Eligible for a 2013 Contract with Boston - and a potential FA in 2014.  With a solid year, he will make a serious payday next year

Hanrahan is Arbitration Eligible for a 2013 Contract with Boston – and a potential FA in 2014. With a solid year, he will make a serious payday!

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Trade Correspondent’ Nicholas Rossoletti for preparing today’s featured article. Nicholas is a young professional living in downtown Miami.  He is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid Yankee supporter.  Having grown up during the last two decades, he counts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as his favorite ball players of all time.  He believes in sabermetrics and that new stats have already changed the way the baseball industry sees players.  He was for Trout over Cabrera, he thinks RBIs tell you a lot more about a team than a player and that defense and pitching, ultimately, win championships.  Rational thought and introspective analysis over the narrative is how we come to understand the game we love.  The narrative is just a way to keep those who don’t really love the game watching.   Feel free to follow Nicholas on twitter and talk the game of baseball

 “There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.” ~Al Gallagher, 1971

a  a  nicholas rossoletti

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Posted on January 10, 2013, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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