Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pirates, Red Sox Agree Hanrahan on Deal

Joel Hanrahan’s tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates has almost come to an end. The Hammer has been sent to the Red Sox along with another Pirate as part of a six player deal, with Boston sending first baseman/corner outfielder Jerry Sands, right handed pitcher Stolmy Pimentel and two others to the Bucs. The full extent of the deal is unknown at this point as well as currently pending physicals. 

The front office has already spent the money that Hanrahan would have earned in 2013 on Francisco Liriano. After reports of a Hanrahan for Chris Capuano deal, the club has ended up with Liriano and four prospects from moving their closer and another player. While it’s difficult to fully analyze the deal without knowing the full extent of it, it seems like both teams have done well. The Red Sox have solidified the back end of their bullpen while giving up players that were essentially spare parts, while the Pirates have picked up some upside for a player that was too expensive for his role on the team – which has in turn allowed them to spend on Liriano. 

The Pirates have lost some strength at the back end of their bullpen. Hanrahan’s had a 2.59 ERA and 1.199 WHIP with 265 strikeouts and 82 saves over 229 innings and a third since joining the Bucs from the Nationals during the 2009 season (my more in depth look at Hanrahan can be found here). His projected 2013 salary of around $7M essentially signalled the end of his career in Pittsburgh, especially when the front office brought back Jason Grilli. The Red Sox now have a very deep bullpen, so one of the other players involved may be a bullpen arm, although that’s purely speculation on my part. 

The Pirates had a known interest in Jose Iglesias after the Liriano signing changed the club’s need from a starting pitcher, however due to Iglesias’ bat his long term role would be limited to a backup infielder/defensive replacement. With the current known players heading to Pittsburgh, the club has received at least a platoon option for 2013 in Sands and Pimentel could find a role in the bullpen later in the season. The return may not be overwhelming at this point, but there is at least some potential.

While Jerry Sands has a good approach at the plate with above average bat speed and power to all fields, the key will be putting it together in the majors - much like the other corner outfielders on the Pirates roster. He was sent to Boston as part of the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett deal over the summer, but has not seen any time with the Sox or their Triple-A club. With the Dodgers Triple-A team, Sands has hit .288/.362/.552 with 55 home runs in 940 plate appearances across the past two years; although the power will be written off by many as he’s been playing in the Pacific Coast League, he has carried it forward from the lower minors. He received just 24 plate appearances in the majors last season and did not do a lot, however he was given 227 PA with the Dodgers in 2011 and hit a solid-yet-unspectacular .253/.338/.389. He struck out on 22.5% of trips to the plate but combined it with an 11.0 BB%. His wOBA was .325 in 2011, which is slightly above average (108 wRC+); to put this in perspective only five Pirates hit better than that last season. 

The Pirates are entering the season with a lot of question marks in the corner outfield positions, so adding additional depth seems like a solid approach. The club should begin the year with Sands, Starling Marte and Travis Snider splitting time between the two corner outfield spots, as neither Marte nor Snider did enough last season to warrant a full time role. While Sands and Marte could start when the Pirates are facing a left-handed starting pitcher, Snider should pick up starts against right-handers with Sands and Marte splitting the rest of the plate appearances. Sands can also provide cover at first base, with the trio effective auditioning for full time roles between first and the corner outfield spots in 2014. 

Stolmy Pimentel will really be an unknown quantity, however much of the focus will be given to his Double-A statistics. While his results have not been the best and it is disappointing that he hasn't managed to pick up more strikeouts, there is some potential but all signs point to a role out of the bullpen. Chris Mellen of Sox Prospects saw Pimentel over the summer and states that his trouble has always been to repeat his delivery meaning that a relief would suit him better. He has a pair of average-to-plus off-speed offerings, a slider and a changeup, however his mid-90s fastball doesn't generate a lot of whiffs – probably necessitating a move to the bullpen. The shorter outings could also see his heater approach triple digits, making it a more difficult pitch to hit and complementing his off-speed pitches better. While the club will probably not commit to moving a soon to be 23-year-old pitcher to the bullpen, the move should really be a necessity given that he’s entering his final option year – so the clubs should really place Pimentel in a role where he could force his way to Pittsburgh this year. 

The initial return has been met fairly negatively by the fan base; however it’s difficult to fully analyze the trade without knowing the full extent of the deal. While I will reserve full judgment until the full details are know, the two known players heading to Pittsburgh could provide at least some value in the long term. When looking at this trade, it also has to be remembered that moving Hanrahan was a necessity so that the club could sign a starting pitcher, with the deal enabling the club to sign Francisco Liriano, so there has already been a positive effect from the trade.

Now that the trade has been completed, further analysis can be found here.


  1. Your last sentence isn't really true. The money from the new TV contract MORE than covers this. The payroll ceiling is compltely invented and the team is VERY profitable. There is no cause and effect here.They could have easily done both and are completely able to do this financially. They CHOOSE noot to do so and have the fans convinced that this is factual when it only allows them to continue to reap huge profits and continue to lose.

    1. The new national TV contract kicks in in 2014 - so if the Liriano deal is quite heavily backloaded then they definitely could have fit both Hanrahan and Liriano's salaries next year.

      $70M is a big rise from this time last year. I do think that a lot more could and should have been done with it too - but the reason why the Liriano/Hanrahan deals are linked is due to overpaying on Russell Martin/retaining Charlie Morton.