3 Ways Red Sox's Joel Hanrahan Trade Will Impact Bullpen in 2013

Geoff Ratliff@@geoffratliffContributor IIIDecember 24, 2012

3 Ways Red Sox's Joel Hanrahan Trade Will Impact Bullpen in 2013

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    The Boston Red Sox are close to acquiring closer Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates, looking to improve one of the American League’s worst bullpens.

    As first reported by CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, the Red Sox will receive Hanrahan and a player to be named later in exchange for outfielder Jerry Sands, right-hander Stolmy Pimentel and two other unnamed players. 

    Boston needs a proven closer to ensure that it does not, once again, lead the league in blown saves. The Red Sox finished tied with the Los Angeles Angels with 22 blown saves last season. 

    Pittsburgh, meanwhile, avoids giving Hanrahan a hefty raise in 2013 via salary arbitration. The Pirates also ensured that they got some compensation for Hanrahan, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.

    The Red Sox did not surrender any players that would were part of the team’s immediate or long-term future, so it’s hard to be negative about the trade. Here is a more in-depth look at how the Hanrahan trade impacts Boston’s bullpen next season.

Provides Insurance for Andrew Bailey

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    Andrew Bailey has the makings of one of the game’s best closers, but the Red Sox have yet to benefit from his immense talent. The 28-year-old right-hander missed most of last season following reconstructive surgery on his pitching thumb.

    Bailey pitched in only 19 games in 2012, and the rust from the long layoff was evident. He posted a 7.04 ERA and 1.89 WHIP over 15.1 innings, while blowing three of his nine save opportunities.

    Bailey's injury history has been a concern ever since the Red Sox acquired him from the Oakland A’s last offseason. After the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year landed on the disabled list for the third straight year, Boston was left with little choice but to acquire another relief pitcher with a proven track record as a closer.

    From that perspective, the acquisition of Hanrahan was an absolute necessity.

    Bailey should open the season as Boston’s closer, but Hanrahan will be waiting on deck if Bailey is ineffective or is unable to overcome his injury history.

Pushes Alfredo Aceves Back into a Setup Role

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    With Bailey on the DL, the Red Sox were forced to turn to Alfredo Aceves as their closer last season. While he managed to save 25 games for a 69-win team, the experiment was mostly a disaster.

    Aceves blew eight of his 33 save opportunities while posting a 5.36 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and surrendering 11 home runs in 84 innings pitched. All three totals were the worst of Aceves’ five-year career.

    With Hanrahan now on board, Aceves can return to a less pressure-filled role working the seventh and eighth innings. That is where he has been most effective in previous seasons, and with few innings-eaters in the starting rotation, that is where Aceves will be most needed.

Hanrahan May Start More Fires Than He Puts out

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    Hanrahan probably won’t make Boston’s bullpen any worse, but he is unlikely to be the savior the Red Sox are looking for. While he has consistently posted a high K rate throughout his career (436 strikeouts in 397.1 career innings), Hanrahan also has serious control issues.

    He’s walked 192 batters in six seasons, and last year he walked more than a batter per inning pitched (36 BB in 59.2). While NL Central lineups rarely made him pay for the free passes, AL East opponents will not be as forgiving.

    The New York Yankees were second in the American League in runs scored last season. The Toronto Blue Jays finished seventh in that category, but their lineup is much improved after some offseason upgrades and the return of slugger Jose Bautista.

    The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles may not have murderer’s rows, but they aren’t the Chicago Cubs or Houston Astros, either.

    Hanrahan must continue to miss bats and exhibit much better control to thrive in his first season in the American League. If he doesn’t, there may not be many save opportunities for Bailey to convert, even if he manages to stay on the field.