MLB Trade Rumors: How Joel Hanrahan to the Dodgers Would Impact the NL

Ian CasselberryMLB Lead WriterDecember 11, 2012

Is Joel Hanrahan on the trade block for the Pirates?
Is Joel Hanrahan on the trade block for the Pirates?Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The word "enough" apparently isn't in the Los Angeles Dodgers' current vocabulary.

Despite signing reliever Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5 million contract that left many in MLB scratching their heads, general manager Ned Colletti is reportedly interested in adding another closer to his bullpen.

According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Dodgers have shown interest in Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Joel Hanrahan. The 31-year-old right-hander appears to be expendable after the Bucs signed Jason Grilli to a two-year, $7 million deal, as reported by CBS Sports' Danny Knobler

The Dodgers also have a surplus of starting pitching after signing Zack Greinke and Ryu Hyun-jin over the weekend, which apparently interests the Pirates in making a deal.

Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are likely available among the Dodgers' eight starting pitchers. Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are recovering from injuries and may not be ready for the start of the 2013 season.

Starting pitching made the difference for the Pirates this year as they contended in the NL Central before collapsing during the second half of the season. Pittsburgh returns a solid top three in their rotation with A.J. Burnett, James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez. 

Capuano or Harang would fit in nicely at the back end of the Pirates' rotation. Capuano finished 12-12 with a 3.72 ERA for the Dodgers in 33 starts. Perhaps the most important number for the Pirates is that he threw 198.1 innings. A starter who can pitch 200 innings is an asset to any staff.

Harang pitched in 31 games this year, compiling a 10-10 record and 3.61 ERA in 179.1 innings. He has two 200-strikeout seasons on his résumé, but hasn't come close to that total in each of the past five seasons.

Would either be a vast improvement over Jeff Karstens or Kevin Correia in the Pirates' rotation?

Capuano probably would be. He strikes out more batters than either Karstens or Correia does (Correia's rate of 4.7 K's per nine innings is almost comical) and as mentioned, he provides more innings. That can also help out the bullpen. 

Will that make a difference for the Pirates in the NL Central next season? Considering that Pittsburgh finished 18 games out in the division race and nine back in the wild-card race, probably not.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds still look like the class of the division, and the Milwaukee Brewers could contend as well, depending on what moves they make during the offseason. 

This season for the Pirates, Hanrahan compiled a 2.72 ERA in 63 appearances and notched 37 saves. He also struck out 67 batters in 59.2 innings. But as Chris Cwik of CBS Sports points out, Hanrahan issued 36 walks, his highest total in the past six seasons. He also served up eight home runs, a high total for any reliever, let alone a closer.

Hanrahan's 4.45 FIP (fielding independent pitching) is further indication that he was walking a high number of batters and serving up too many homers. The Pirates' defense bailed out Hanrahan when he wasn't striking batters out. 

The Dodgers already have League tabbed as their closer. He posted a 2.30 ERA and six saves in 28 appearances after coming over from the Seattle Mariners. League also struck out 27 batters in 27.1 innings. 

But he was particularly dominant at the end of the season for the Dodgers. In 15 games, League compiled an 0.55 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 16.1 innings and those six saves. 

Former closer Kenley Jansen looks ready to be the setup man after an irregular heartbeat put him on the disabled list. Jansen had heart surgery to correct the problem and is expected to be ready for spring training. 

Ronald Belisario gives the Dodgers another strong arm toward the end of the game. He finished this season with an 8-1 record and 2.54 ERA in 68 games. Additionally, he struck out 69 batters in 71 innings. 

Hanrahan would certainly make that late-inning relief corps stronger and supply enough depth to prevent the starting pitchers from having to go deep into a ballgame. If there's one problem with him, it's that he's not a left-hander, something that the Dodgers' bullpen really needs.

But Hanrahan is actually better against left-handed hitters and should be as effective as any southpaw reliever would be. Against lefty batters this year, Hanrahan allowed a .135 average and .525 OPS in 124 plate appearances. 

With that kind of performance, the Dodgers might not need a traditional left-handed specialist. Scott Elbert was actually ineffective against lefties this season, allowing a .271 average and .727 OPS. He was actually better against right-handers (.170 average, .515 OPS). Go figure. 

Hanrahan could be expensive for a setup reliever. He made $4.1 million this year as a closer and has one more season of arbitration eligibility. MLB Trade Rumors projects him for a $6.9 million salary, which is far more than most teams would pay for a middle reliever. But we're talking about the Dodgers, for whom money just isn't an obstacle. 

With Greinke and Ryu added to a rotation that already featured Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett, the Dodgers figured to be a serious contender in the NL West, if not a favorite to some observers. Adding Hanrahan would make the bullpen a strength as well, though the Dodgers will have overpaid for at least two of their relievers.

Combine that with a lineup that will include Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier, and the Dodgers look like a team that should make the playoffs next season.


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