Red Sox Interested In Pirates’ Closer Joel Hanrahan


Even with a seemingly stuffed bullpen, the Red Sox are still interested in more relief pitchers. Several sources have reported that the Red Sox are eyeing current Pirates’ closer Joel Hanrahan. After a rocky start to his career, Hanrahan has been one of the best late inning relievers in baseball since joining the Pirates in late 2009. Trading for him would be a questionable move, though, because the Red Sox already have Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara, Mark Melancon, and Craig Breslow designated for late inning roles.

August 29, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan (52) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Hanrahan was coming off a career year in 2011 when he started 2012 as the Pirates’ closer. While on the surface, his stats look pretty good– a 2.72 ERA and 36 saves– his peripherals do merit some concern. While he did strike out an outstanding 10.11 per nine innings in 2012, he also walked 5.43– his highest total since his rookie year in 2007. Also, though his ERA was low at 2.72, his FIP (4.45) and xFIP (4.28) showed that he got lucky more than his fair share of times, as did his BABIP of .225.

In a deal for Hanrahan, the Pirates have been rumored to have interest in Franklin Morales, Alfredo Aceves, or Felix Doubront. The Red Sox would likely be uninterested in parting with Doubront, however, who showed good (if inconsistent) stuff in his first full season. It’s unclear of how far along the trade talks are, but I’d be very unhappy if the Red Sox gave up too much for Hanrahan. It would be difficult to believe he would repeat a season like 2012 or 2011, given how lucky he was and moving to the AL East, so I would strongly discourage giving up anything of value.

This rumor is also strange because it’s unclear where Hanrahan would even slot into their bullpen. It would perhaps clear up a trade of Andrew Bailey, but Bailey is arguably better than Hanrahan when healthy. This is a very questionable move, and I’m not totally sure why the Red Sox would make it. I would see it if it were to clear up some space on the roster to announce the acquisitions of Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli (if his contract situation is worked out).

Hanrahan would bring a big-upside arm to the bullpen. However, it’s equally possible that he’ll fall on his face once his 5.43 walk rate meets the big bats of the AL East. The Red Sox have enough late inning arms and I’d be very surprised if they seriously pursued Hanrahan. However, if they do, they hopefully won’t give up too much.