The inquiry started the day after Hanrahan shut down the Tigers to preserve a 6-2 victory, making him 13-13 in save opportunities this year.
While it has already been reported by Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review that the Pirates were not willing to deal Hanrahan, it still raises the question, what would the Pirates need to get in exchange?
After all, relief pitchers can be a dime-a-dozen, especially right-handers. Last year, the Pirates used Evan Meek and Octavio Dotel to help preserve the mere few wins they managed over the season. Certainly, they could find another arm to replace Joel Hanrahan who, granted, wouldn't be as effective but could still close out games.
That said, the Pirates would be foolish to give him up for peanuts. Joel Hanrahan's price would have to be good in order to get the Pirates to even think about trading away the 29-year-old.
Still, if we're going to make a discussion out of this, who would the Pirates have to receive?
Let us look at the team needs:
Right field: The Pirates would do well to get a sure bat to play right while moving Garret Jones to first base and keeping Lyle Overbay on the bench.
Unfortunately, Nelson Cruz strikes out way too much, Julio Bourbon, David Murphy and Endy Chavez would not add anything to make the team better and Josh Hamilton is completely out of the question.
First base: Acquiring the services of Michael Young would make things interesting because it would probably move Pedro Alvarez to first and place Young on the hot corner to increase the strength in the offense.
While Young has been on the trading block since February, the price is still a little too steep for the Rangers to make that move for a relief pitcher.
Remember, Texas already has a closer in Neftali Feliz, Hanrahan would not get the ball every ninth inning. Other than Young, there really isn't anyone else to target on the corner positions.
Shortstop: As highly as Elvis Andrus is touted by everyone in baseball, in reality, his numbers show he would not be a significant improvement over Ronny Cedeno at this time.
Cedeno has been hot since making a minor change in his swing and Ronny has a higher fielding percentage as well as a higher Rtot or Total Zone Fielding. Obviously at the age of 22, Andrus has plenty of time to grow and become a superstar shortstop. But if we're going to go that route, why not trade Hanrahan for Jurickson Profar, the 17-year-old shortstop in the Rangers farm system?
Profar is currently ranked second in the Texas system by Baseball America and would probably make his debut in 2013 with Jameson Taillon. He projects to be a five-tool player while staying at short. Since Andrus is already on the big league club at such a young age, the Rangers would probably be willing to deal Profar.
Unfortunately, there's only one problem with that trade and it is my fourth and final point.
The Pirates are looking to make trades to add pieces to the big league club. Trading away Joel Hanrahan for a prospect would be taking a step back both from a competitive standpoint as well as from a fan base standpoint.
With the fans slowly buying back into an organization that had ripped its hearts out for nearly two decades, a trade for prospects deal would devastate the city and the franchise. The fact that trading a reliever could tip the scale, speaks volumes to how sensitive the city has been for the the past 18 years.
It seems the best bet for the Pittsburgh Pirates would be to hold on to Joel Hanrahan as they still hold his rights through 2013.
He's been completely dominant from the start of the 2011 season and the Pirates, while they are winning, would do best to keep Hanrahan in that closer role to shorten the game for Pittsburgh. As stated before, the Pirates have already traded big league talent for prospects and are now in the process, or cycle, of acquiring big league talent if they remain close to contention by late July.
In fact, even if the Pirates falter in the next few months, the only names on the chopping block will be Ryan Doumit and Paul Maholm. Neal Huntington still views Hanrahan as a piece to the ".500" team.
As it stands, the thirst for relievers is so great, and yet, so easy to quench. Winning teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, etc.) need established veterans to close out innings during a playoff run while losing teams (Pirates, Astros, Mariners) have the ability to develop young arms into relief roles.
When the Pirates are in a position to trade prospects for late-game relievers, we, as fans, will know the team is competitive once again.
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