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Joel Hanrahan: What's His Trade Market?

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 04:  Joel Hanrahan #52 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch in a closing effort against the Philadelphia Phillies during the game on June 4, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Pirates defeated the Phillies 6-3.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Adam BernacchioAnalyst IIIJune 8, 2011

Despite their unpredictability (see Joakim Soria), closers are always a hot commodity come the trade deadline. This year’s crop of potential trade candidates range from studs like Heath Bell to suspect closers like Matt Capps.

But then there are the in-between guys like Pittsburgh Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan.

Hanrahan isn’t great, but he isn’t bad, either. As a matter of fact, he’s off to a darn good start to the season. If the Pirates should look to trade him, he should have some decent value at the deadline.

Let’s look at the pros, cons and teams that may be interested in the former Washington National… 

 

Pros

Hanrahan’s value may never be higher. Going into last night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Hanrahan has a 1.69 ERA, 2.78 xFIP, 7.8 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, and a 54.2 percent ground-ball percentage in 26.2 IP. His 2.4 BB/9 and 54.2 GB percentage are the best of his career.

What’s surprising about Hanrahan’s start to the 2011 season is that he usually struggles in the first half of the season.

For his career, Hanrahan has a 4.48 ERA in the first half. If he carries over his hot start into the second half, he can put together a full season for the first time in his career.

Perhaps Hanrahan’s early success can be attributed to his new found fastball and use of it. Hanrahan is throwing harder than ever in 2011 (97.3 mph on his fastball) and is throwing it more than ever.

Coming into this season, Hanrahan had about a 2-to-1 fastball-to-slider ratio. This year, that ratio is about 5-to-1 and his 3.0 wFB is the best of his career by a wide margin. 

 

Cons

At the end of the day, he still is Joel Hanrahan and one has to wonder if he will suffer from “Brian Fuentes Syndrome” if he gets traded to a big market team. Fuentes strikes me as a guy who would much rather be the eighth inning guy or closer on a bad team rather than a closer for a World Series contender.

Hanrahan has played on the Nationals and Pirates during his career, which isn’t exactly prime time. What happens if he gets traded the Philadelphia Phillies and now he is pitching in front of 40,000 rabid fans? Can he handle that pressure? It’s certainly up to Hanrahan to prove that he can.

I also wonder when Hanrahan’s luck is going to run out. While his fastball has improved this season, he pitching to almost a bend-but-don’t-break mentality.

His 7.8 K/9 is his lowest (7.6) since he was moved to the bullpen full time in 2008 and his 77 percent contact percentage is seven percent higher than it was last season. Sooner or later, Hanrahan figures to break somewhat, and that 80 percent LOB percentage he has will drop and his ERA will rise.

Now that we have looked at the pros and cons of Hanrahan, let’s take a look at the teams that might be interested in the 29-year-old… 

 

Boston Red Sox

Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler have been a complete busts and Tito Francona is determined to pitch Daniel Bard until his arm falls off. The Red Sox need another lefty in the pen more than another righty, but Hanrahan could certainly help. 

 

Cleveland Indians

If the Indians are going to hold off the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox, then they are going to need to make some moves. They could look to add a starter, but Hanrahan would make sense as another right-handed reliever to setup Chris Perez

 

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers bullpen has been really ineffective this season and their 4.96 ERA is 29th in baseball. They can use all the help they can get in the later innings. 

 

Texas Rangers

The Rangers have not been able to fill the void in their bullpen left by Alexi Ogando‘s switch to the starting rotation. Right now, the Rangers don’t have an answer to this scenario: ALDS, bottom of the seventh, runners on first and second and Alex Rodriguez coming to the plate.

Who pitches for the Rangers? 

 

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies have Jose Contreras and Brad Lidge coming back, but their health can’t be trusted. Hanrahan would make a nice addition to the Phillies bullpen. 

 

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have gotten some nice contributions from guys like Jason Motte, Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez, but Hanrahan could add another piece to their pen.

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