Santa Claus may be coming to town, but ‘Hammer Time’ is heading to Boston as the Pittsburgh Pirates have traded closer Joel Hanrahan as well as Brock Holt to the Red Sox. The Pirates received four players back in Jerry Sands, Stolmy Pimentel, Mark Melancon and Ivan DeJesus
Sands was a part of the blockbuster trade last season that sent Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sands amassed great numbers in the minor leagues, but did not make the most of his opportunities with the Dodgers. When he initially was called up in 2011 and put up an average of .200 and an on-base percentage of .294. As a September call-up, he had a .343 average and .253 average. He saw 24 plate appearance in 2012 striking out around 38% of the time and getting just four hits in 24 at-bats.
In the minors, Sands had a lot of power as shown by his 2010 season in which he had 35 homers and 93 RBI with a .301 average while splitting time in high-A Great Lakes and double-A Chattanooga. In 2011, when not with the Dodgers major league club, he saw time with AAA Albuquerque where he had 29 homers and 88 RBI.
Sands is another guy who can play first base and outfield and joins Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez among others in the battle for those spots. He fits into management’s idea of speed on the basepaths and taking that extra base as shown by the 18 steals in the breakout 2010 season. His outfield arm also is not shabby and he had six outfield assists in his limited time. The Dodgers did not give him a real chance and he did not shine with the Red Sox, but he is 24 and has time to grow. I believe he is major league ready it’s just a matter of if the Pirates give him that chance.
Pimentel was one of the ‘untouchables’ a few years ago when the Pirates traded Jason Bay to the Red Sox. As we know, that trade did not work out well and overtime, neither did Pimentel. He is just 22, with a fastball that tops out at 95 miles per hour. He has experienced delivery troubles that hurt his consistency. He was doing well until his regression in 2010. In 2011, he struggled with double-A Portland getting an ERA over 9.5 in 15 games. He allowed 75 hits in 50 1/3 innings. He had an 0-9 record during that time. Scouts are pessimistic with his development so a change of scenary is necessary but one has to wonder if the Pirates can bring him back into form. It would take at least a couple years to start over and do a pet project but that is likely what will have to happen. If it does work out, he could be a fourth or fifth starter but again consistency is key.
Joel Hanrahan was due $7 million for the upcoming season after making $4.1 million last season. With the signing of Jason Grilli, it became clear that Hanrahan was on his way out. It was told to a Pittsburgh media member that the chances of the Pirates keeping both Grilli and Hanrahan were pretty much impossible.
As a Pirate, Hanrahan converted 82 out of 94 total save opportunities. He came to Pittsburgh along with Lastings Milledge in the Nyjer Morgan trade. Hanrahan was great in the clubhouse, mentored a lot of the young relievers and embodied the attitude of a closer.
Hanrahan was an all-star each of the past two seasons but it was clear that he regressed. His fastball which clocked at an average speed of 97.83 went down to 96.68, but regularly was three miles per hour less than the 98 fans were used to seeing in 2011. Hanrahan ditched his change up and his control was down as well. The only closer who walked more batters than Hanrahan last season was Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. This would lead to ‘Hanrahan heart attacks’ where Hanrahan would give up multiple base runners, but somehow almost always wiggle out of danger. His pitch counts would be high as a result.
Hanrahan’s slider was his strikeout pitch, and he used it 25.35% of the time in 2012 versus 17.12% in 2011.
Still his fastball was king and he threw it 748 times last season. Whether it was a lefty or righty at the plate if Hanrahan or the batter was ahead after the first pitch 89-96% of the time he threw the heater as he tried to set up the slider.
In 2012, Hanrahan went to the fastball 75% of the time, which represented 748 of the 1,002 pitches he threw all of last season. To left-handers, he threw the heater 95% of the time on the first pitch. His slider represented his strikeout pitch as he had 50 strkeouts with the pitch.
Hanrahan stuck to the fastball even more in 2011 going with it 83% of the time which represented 862 of the 1040 pitches he threw. His average velocity was 97.83 miles per hour. When he was ahead after the first pitch against lefties, he relied on the fastball 100% of the time and 99% of the time to righties. His slider his out pitch in 2011 as well.
Hanrahan will be missed for a variety of reasons. Hanrahan had that mentality of the closer but Boston sensed a need for a closer as Andrew Bailey does not appear to be fully healed. Hanrahan helped mentor the younger relievers and give them that needed edge and he was a leader in that clubhouse. Boston needs a leader considering how troubled the franchise has been for two seasons. Hanrahan also did a lot of good for the community and that aspect will be missed.
The Pirates clearly made this trade as a salary dump. Essentially they are cutting their losses. Trading for Hanrahan right now is like eating the leftover turkey for an extra week after Thanksgiving is over, you have to do it and you want to get it over with as quickly as possible. While trading for Chris Capuano would have helped the club win more in 2013, the club had addressed their starting pitching needs when they got Liriano. They just wanted to get rid of the high cost Hanrahan while rebuilding the depth a bit more and saving more money to make more moves.
While the moves that could be made are unknown, fans are largely unhappy with the trades and you can’t blame them. Pirates management has been on ‘thin ice’ but they praise accountability and they talk about winning, but by trading Hanrahan, they in some respects are alienating fans who are ‘all-in’ on this team winning.
Closers come and go but despite a ‘down’ year, Hanrahan still had 36 saves and if he did stay the Pirates would have one of the best back ends of the bullpen in baseball. It is my believe that the ninth inning save situation is the most over dramatized thing in baseball. Yes you have to have a certain mentality and the game is on the line, but you need to get three outs much like other innings. The job is now Grilli’s and he will have to step up.
While Jose Iglesias and Felix Doubront were both rumored to be possibilities for coming to the Pirates, the team got what they could. Value for closers, especially those with one year left in their contracts is thin and fans do not understand that. There are still two players the Pirates may receive and perhaps that will offer more to like. Still, the Pirates did what they could and in a big picture, it was a lose-lose scenario.
The third player the Pirates will receive is Melancon. Melancon had a solid and breakout 2011 season getting 20 saves and a 2.78 ERA in 71 games. He was sent to the Red Sox last season and appeared in 41 games with a 6.20 ERA. His WAR last season was -0.6.
Melancon uses five pitches a fastball, sinker, changeup, cutter and curve ball. The fastball is most frequent being used 33% of the time last season and it averaged 93.96 miles per hour.
It seemed Melancon was in the wrong place last season and the Red Sox pitching coach was fired during the offseason. Maybe Pitching Coach Ray Searage can get Melancon back together again. Melancon excelled in the National League as an Astro in 2010 and 2011. Whether it is Searage using his sinker or just belief again, Melancon could get a role in the Pirates bullpen right away and his closer experience could come in handy should Grilli get injured.
General Manager Neal Huntington seems to be treating this like when Hanrahan first came to the Pirates. His ERA was struggling and he was blowing saves left and right. The Pirates provided a change of scenary for Hanrahan and he thrived here. Melancon provides more looks and coming back to the National League should help him. Searage is a great mentor and is well liked by the pitchers. Melancon could thrive but for now projects as a set up man until he can get himself right again or if Grilli falters.
Holt provided depth while Neil Walker nursed an injury that prematurely ended his season. Holt can be replaced though and DeJesus offers that depth. He mainly plays second base or shortstop but can play third base or the outfield. His .298 career minor league average and Dodgers Minor Leaguer of the Year in 2008 also help. DeJesus is not on the 40-man roster as Sands, Pimentel and DeJesus are and thus will have to earn his spot but I like his chances.
Overall: This is the best the Pirates could do but the closer’s market is so thin. The Red Sox clearly don’t trust the closer they locked up, Andrew Bailey who has been injured. That right there shows the risk of signing a closer and the Miami Marlins experienced similar troubles last season with Heath Bell. If he plays his cards right, Sands could be on the bench because of the many skill sets he can bring. Sands will have a chance in Pittsburgh. Pimentel is a lost cause if you ask me, and Melancon could be the eighth inning guy but also could close due to his experience. DeJesus provides a good option for insurance and I believe while his bat isn’t powerful it can get those singles and doubles. DeJesus is major league ready in terms of making some impact this season.
Outraged fans need to realize that while Hanrahan did a solid job as a Pirate, his value much like other closers was low and being in a contract year it was even lower, but again the Pirates can use this money for something else, whether it’s another piece or perhaps locking up Neil Walker, something the fans would like to see. Regardless, the Pirates got three major league ready players in this deal and you have to like it a lot.
Steve Berthiaume- ‘Not sure. Frankly, I don’t get the @hanrahan52 thing. Back end of pen was strength.’
Joe Klimchak- ‘Thanks, too, @hanrahan52 4 being the 1st 2 show up 4 early morning charity events 4 special needs kids just hours after dropping the hammer.’
Andrew McCutchen- ‘Never easy 2 see a teammate go. Wish him the best.’
Joel Hanrahan- ‘Thank you to the @Pirates and the Pirate fans and city of Pittsburgh for 3+ great years. I enjoyed every minute of it!!! I’m very excited to be joining the @RedSox and look forward to joining the great history of Boston and making some new history!!!’
Brock Holt- ‘Thank you @Pirates for everything. Enjoyed my stay and learned a lot!! Good people in that organization!! Excited to join the @RedSox!!! Looking forward to being part of something special!!! #RedSoxNation’
Demitrius Thorn- ‘It sucks to lose a player and person of that caliber but it IS a business and 7mm for a closer is A LOT of money.’
Andrew Goleman- ‘He was on the decline anyway, got rid of some money also I have confidence in grilli, only bad thing is it takes away from two shutdown relievers so that question will need to be answered.
Fred Davis- ‘Money dump. Another Travis Snyder No major leaguer. Just prospects. I was excited. Till they made the deal.’