Trading Hanrahan: Not your typical Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates are catching some flak for trading their closer, Joel Hanrahan.

From the outside, it looks like the same old Pirates. You know, the ones that have had 20 straight losing seasons while trading every talented-but-getting-expensive player who’s come along other than Jason Kendall, who somehow got the biggest contract in Pirates history.

So when the Pirates traded their closer to the Boston Red Sox for a bunch of guys their fan base had never heard of, it felt like more of the same. It also doesn’t help that Hanrahan, with his outgoing personality and wild facial hair, is a fan favorite.

But, for a change, they’ve made a good baseball move.

The Pirates simply can’t afford a closer who makes up 10 percent of their payroll. They really can’t afford for any player to take up that portion of their payroll. If Andrew McCutchen did they could probably get away with it, but it certainly can’t be a closer whose command wavered last season. In fact, your old Pirates probably would have given Hanrahan an overpriced extension based on one strong and one mediocre season because he is a fan favorite.

But instead, they made an unpopular but wise move.

As far as we know now, the Pirates got first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel and major league reliever Mark Melancon. The trade isn’t yet complete but the remaining contents aren’t as relevant as the trade itself.

The Pirates needed to get something in return for Hanrahan, who was their most valuable trade asset this offseason, but as the closer market diminished, it began to look like the return for Hanrahan wouldn’t be a ton. While some called for the Pirates to keep him, it still made sense for the Pirates to move him, almost regardless of the return.

For the Pirates, it was about putting his salary to better use. Entering his final offseason of arbitration, Hanrahan is in line for a raise that will put his 2013 salary around $7 million. The Pirates’ payroll is usually around $70 million.

That $7 million needed to be dedicated toward improving other aspects of a ball club that is on the brink of being competitive but still has major holes.

You can question the Pirates’ thinking in reallocating that money in the direction of Russell Martin or Francisco Liriano, but the thinking was correct. They needed to upgrade at catcher and the starting rotation, and they have attempted to do that. You can argue whether Martin and Liriano were the right men for the job, but that’s a debate over execution, not philosophy.

It is likely that Jason Grilli, whom they re-signed this offseason for two seasons at the cost of one of Hanrahan’s, will fill in as the Pirates closer and should be able to replicate the majority of his production. Even without Hanrahan, the Pirates bullpen still had plenty of strong arms that should, at the very least, not be a weakness of the team.

Regardless of the success of the upgrades the Pirates have made, they had the right idea. For the Pirates, that’s a step in the right direction.


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Bill McKinley
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Bill McKinley

Couldn’t agree more with the Pirates’ decision to trade Hanrahan.
Will choose to disagree that they made this trade if, as reported, they could have acquired Rick Porcello from the Tigers instead.
He is a pitcher who needs a stronger infield defense behind him and one who might blossom into a strong #2 starter.

bucdaddy
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bucdaddy
The position of “closer” simply doesn’t seem to lend itself to durability or sustainability, for whatever reason. Hanrahan, with one very good and one OK season in the role, is already fifth on the Pirates’ all-time saves list, with 82. My guess is that for most teams, anybody who had two seasons like Hanrahan’s would also make the top 10. They seem to have a very flash-in-the-pan quality—every season a half dozen guys nobody knows inherit the job and do just fine at it … for one season—and that unless you really think you’ve stumbled onto a Mariano Rivera, you’re… Read more »
Aaron James
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Aaron James

Bill – I would have loved Porcello, but they tried to get him and got shut down. Detroit seems content on using internal candidates to fill the hole. So I’d rather get a group of near-MLB ready prospects than give up more than its worth to get Porcello.

Andy
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Andy

This now makes Garret Jones expendable.  Look for them to make a trade, maybe for a first baseman or ss.  We have depth in the OF to make a move.  Also look for the 7 million to be used to bring in a FA.

bucdaddy
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bucdaddy

The $7 mil already was used to bring in an FA—Liriano.

I wouldn’t call Jones “expendable,” but it would have to be a pretty good return to deal him. There is, certainly, a logjam in the outfield now, and at first base.

long suffering bucs fan
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long suffering bucs fan
Are you guys smoking crack? In order for a trade to be a trade you have to get something back. Sands is a stiff ( ask dodgers fans) , the 2 pitchers are proven busts and I’m not gonna even mention an ex major leaguers kid who has mustered up a 205 average in the minors in 8 yrs. Salary dump as always..pirates need new ownership 20 losing yrs and counting ..make it 21. Oh we also tossed in Brock Holt.. a young player with at least a decent AVG/OBP…who I wouldn’t have traded straight up for ANY of the… Read more »
Aaron Leight
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Aaron Leight
Couldn’t agree more.  The increase in walks certainly scared me, and, while I have little doubt he’d have continued to be a solid closer, the Buccos simply have bigger needs. Sands may prove to be a Quad-a player, but he’s shown promising attributes at the highest level of the minors. Melancon is just a year removed from closing in this division, and I’ve heard rumors that the deal also includes shortstop Jose Iglesias – who’d fill a major hole in the starting offense. At the end of the day, we traded an expensive, declining closer who would have been gone… Read more »
HoratioSky
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HoratioSky

Aaron, please re-post this paragraph to every ‘yinzer’ who links this front office with the prior ones.  It is to-the-point and necessary.

Well said.

Aaron James
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Aaron James

Haha, thanks Horatio.

long suffering bucs fan
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long suffering bucs fan

Lets see this front office hasn’t hit a .500 record yet in 5 seasons. Wasted a 1st round pick last year for someone they weren’t going to pay. Now trade an all star reliver for 4 bags of beaten up balls. I’ll ck back here at midseason when Hanrahan has 20-25 saves and the Pirates “incomers” have produced nothing. Further, the Sox will re-sign Hanrahan.. he’s only 31..while our great management replaces him with Grilli a 36 yr old who has never closed. Brilliant.

Aaron James
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Aaron James
Give me a break… if you can’t see the difference in the last 5 years compared to the prior 15, then you’re just being pessimistic. They are still a small market team – they will never change that – but confusing their recent maneuvers for those of the past (Jason Bay, Aramis Ramirez, Jason Schmidt, etc) is just being ignorant. Over Huntington’s reign, they have spent more in the MLB draft than any team in baseball, been extremely active in the international market, transformed the state of our farm system, signed the best player to come to this city in… Read more »
Bill McKinley
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Bill McKinley

I’m not a Pirates fan but I sense you have at least two long suffering fans who are, one passionately optimistic and one definitely pessimistic and jaded.

Hanrahan is 3rd year arbitration eligible this year and a FA next year. It made sense to trade him.

I thought they could have gotten more but Melancon is following a career path not dissimilar to Hanrahan and could easily work into the closer role. Should that happen, the Pirates likely “win” this trade.

Happy holidays.

Aaron James
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Aaron James
You’re quick to blame current management, but refuse to see the big picture. 5 years is nothing in baseball and they’ve made a massive amount of progress. Huntington started with a heap of terrible contacts, a bare minor league system and an ultra stingy owner. This deal was not one with only 2013 in mind, so yes at midseason it may not be an instant cure all. The Pirates aren’t in a position to think now, now, now like the Blue Jays or even Royals. We’re also not bad enough to think strictly in the future. So we get rid… Read more »
Aaron James
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Aaron James
I don’t want my extreme opposition to the cry baby making it seem like I think the buccos are going to make a run for the pennant. The offense is still mediocre at best and the pitching would need a few career years to be considered anything above average. But I just feel like for a small market club who was in such shambles just 6 short years ago, we’ve made up a lot of ground. And we’ve done it by making smart baseball decisions compared to strictly smart business ones. I’m excited by the promise of a brighter tomorrow,… Read more »
long suffering bucs fan
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long suffering bucs fan
I love how people assume things on the internet. Let me tell you this – I am old enough to have seen the bucs play in Forbes Field. I attended the first game at 3 rivers and all home ws games in 71 & 79. I have followed the game closely for years..not to mention even closer since the rise of fantasy- I have been in an NL only roto league for over 10 years. That said- I am entitled to say same old bucs. When they actually win more than they lose let me know. Have they made improvements… Read more »
Aaron James
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Aaron James
I’d say increasing your win total from 57 to 79 and spending time the majority of the season above .500 is a little more than just gaining some potential, but your point isn’t lost on me. The results aren’t there yet and I get that. I just look at where we were before and compare it to now and I like the trends I’m seeing compared to past years. Oh and resigning McCutchen through his prime is something the “same old buccos” would have gawked at. We’d have kept him while he were cheap and then sent him to Texas… Read more »
Leo Walter
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Leo Walter
As a long time Pirate fan,while not as optimistic,or quite as forgiving of the current Management team as Aaron,I do have to say I get sick and tired of seeing the same old,same old mis-informed criticisms from people like the ” long suffering bucs fan ” (..wah !) It reminds me of reading the Pittsburgh newspaper blogs,where the personal grudges and poorly informed so called ” fans ” spout their never ending ideas of who they should trade or spend for,when in reality no GM in baseball would ever make some of the deals they bring up.Maybe now that the… Read more »
Aaron James
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Aaron James
Hehe. Glad you liked the Lohan line; I was pretty proud of it when it came to me, so I’m glad to see it wasn’t lost on everyone else. To answer your question, I can only assume that keeping the trio of Liriano, Karstens and Hammer would have proved too costly – especially when we were only able to get the former by knowing the latter was on his way out. We’re approaching (and maybe even eclipsed by now) the $70M mark, which for a team who has consistently spent in the 40-50M range, is a pretty significant increase in… Read more »
Leo Walter
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Leo Walter
LSBF : Yes,I do have the ‘60 DVD,and by the way,I can see now why Mickey cried the whole way back to NYC after that loss. The Pirates had 4 genuine MLB position players on the field that day,while the entire Yankee lineup was the real deal.And,that is some really cool old material you have there ! Now,back to your current points. Yes,I am pretty old,and sometimes it is difficult to keep the old school thought processees from taking over. However,I see about 65-70 AA games a season in addition to Spring Training and Buc’s games,so it isn’t difficult to… Read more »
Aaron James
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Aaron James
Exactly, Leo. Hammer was a fan favorite here – and deservedly so. But he’s not a highly valuable trade piece when he has only 1 year left, which is estimated to be worth around $7M. He’s already shown decline in both statistics and conditioning. And the biggest factor in his mediocre value is that he’s a RELIEF pitcher! Aside from MAYBE half a dozen guys in the league, no relief pitcher is going to garner a large return. And the ones who do will likely be either young and controllable, or so highly elite that they wouldn’t be traded (ie… Read more »
Aaron James
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Aaron James
Thinking that we expect and/or need Sands to hit 30+MLB HR this year for this deal to pay off is the exact thinking that impairs Buccos fans from seeing the reality of the deal. I’d be happy if he contributed at all. He’s a guy who’s proven himself at the minor league level, but hadn’t put it altogether in the majors yet. Anyone expecting him to be an all star is kidding themselves. In deals where you trade an expensive guy of his value, with impending free agency, you’re looking for 2 things: relief from the salary and the possibility… Read more »
Leo Walter
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Leo Walter
Aaron,I couldn’t agree with you more on most of the points you have mentioned.One aspect of Hanny’s performance that has been neglected is the ” eye test “. From about the beginning of July on,he wasn’t passing my eye test at all ! I saw so many guys swinging at sliders that were nowhere the strike zone ( like Billy Butler in the All Star Game ) that I thought there was going to be trouble ahead. Then when his fastball dropped 2 to 3 MPH, I thought he was headed for problems. I was sorry that they were caught… Read more »
Leo Walter
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Leo Walter

LSBF : I promise this is my last word on the Hanrahan deal. Actually,it is a partial quote from MLB Rumors regarding the Bo Sox trade of Josh Reddick to the A’s for Andrew Baily exactly one year ago.” Even if Bailey gets healthy and returns to form, a good closer doesn’t have the value of a good (and controllable through 2016) everyday outfielder, so I’d say Oakland has won this trade already.” If more Pirate ” fans “and Sports Reporters would pay attention to this type of information,they might understand better what goes on in MLB today. would

long suffering bucs fan
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long suffering bucs fan
Aaron you make many valid points. I would LOVE to be proven wrong. I do have to say this—your line about Lohan above was pure gold.. I seriously busted a gut on that one. Thank you for a polite well reasoned response. But if ownership is really serious about winning what is wrong with Liriano, Karstens and Hanrahan for this year and see what happens. With those three I feel the quest for .500 would at least happen. Letting the owner off with well we can’t afford all these guys ( and I’m not talking arod type contracts here) is… Read more »
Leo Walter
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Leo Walter
long suffering bucs fan : Good for you ! I am glad to hear that you actually saw the Bucs play in Forbes Field. But,if you can tell me that you saw them before I saw Ralph Kiner,the O’Brian Twins, Vic Janowiscz,and Jackie Robinson from the Dodgers,you get the Longevity Prize.If you can also tell me that you have been watching their Minor League Operations as much or more than I have,once again,congrats. But if you can’t,you probably don’t know quite as much as you think you do about how Major League Orginizations are run today. Thinking you can keep… Read more »
long suffering bucs fan
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long suffering bucs fan
Wow Leo—you’re reaaaaaaallyyy old!!!! LOL… Does it count if I have baseball cards of all of the above?? They were way before my time ( and I feel old). I hear what your saying.. I still think we could have gotten a better return—I’d have taken one proven starting major leaguer straight up. On another note I was just watching game 7 of the 1960 series—if you don’t have the dvd I highly recommend it. BTW if you wanna go really old school I am familiar with Babe Adams, Kiki Cuyler,Wilbur Cooper,Clyde Barhardt…. ( I actually have a Babe Adams… Read more »
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