Pirates Trade Rumors: Dealing Joel Hanrahan Is a Risk Worth Taking

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 10:  National League All-Star Joel Hanrahan #52 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the ninth inning during the 83rd MLB All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium on July 10, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Rob GoldbergFeatured Columnist IVApril 22, 2015

The MLB trade deadline is full of teams taking risks to make their teams better either now or in the future. The Pittsburgh Pirates should take a big risk by trading their closer Joel Hanrahan.

After not having a winning season since 1992, the Pirates need to give their fans a reason to believe. Also, the low expectations give them almost nothing to lose.

Tom Singer of MLB.com reports that the team is looking for bats to bolster the lineup and is willing to part with young pitchers. However, he closes by discussing the possibility of dealing their talented closer.

The possibility of Joel Hanrahan and his 30 saves going in a blockbuster has been on the back burner all summer. Many elite teams that lack a proven closer would be willing to swap two Major League bats for him. The Pirates may feel confident giving the closing role to Brad Lincoln, Jason Grilli or a combination of the two of them.

For a team that has little firepower outside of Andrew McCutchen, two players that could contribute right away might be worth the move.

This season, the Pirates are 10th in the National League in runs scored, 13th in batting average and last in on-base percentage. The pitching staff, behind James McDonald and A.J. Burnett, has carried the team to the third-best record in the league, but that might not last forever.

Pittsburgh needs players that can create offense, and the front office should be willing to do whatever is necessary to improve the team.

Hanrahan leads the majors in saves, but a closer is not as valuable as a talented everyday player. In fact, FanGraphs lists the closer as being valued only 0.1 wins above a replacement player. Potential fill-ins Jason Grilli (0.8 WAR) and Brad Lincoln (0.6 WAR) have provided more value to the team this year.

There is always a risk in changing the mentality of the team when a closer is removed, but Grilli has shown that he can handle high-leverage situations.

The Pirates do have other options. Starting pitcher Kevin Correia has been made expendable by the Wandy Rodriguez acquisition, and there are a number of talented minor league players that other teams would find interesting.

However, the key at the trade deadline is moving players that have more value on other teams, and Hanrahan fits that description.

They can improve their lineup without mortgaging the future or costing the team too much in the present.

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