Grading the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates on Joel Hanrahan Trade

John Altamura@@JohnAltamuraBRContributor IIDecember 23, 2012

Grading the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates on Joel Hanrahan Trade

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    The Boston Red Sox made a move to shore up the back end of their bullpen by trading for two-time All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan. The six-player trade between the Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates was announced via Twitter on Saturday by John Heyman of

    The Pirates will receive minor league outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, right-handed pitcher Stolmy Pimentel and two players to be named later. One of those players to be named later may be journeyman reliever Mark Melancon, according to Gordon Edes of ESPN. (Full story here.)

    The Red Sox will also receive another player to be named later.

    There are bound to be a lot of questions surrounding this trade. Questions such as who got the best out of this trade? Will the Pirates regret trading a closer who has saved 76 games in the past two seasons? Can Jerry Sands become a force on the major league level?

    Those questions will undoubtedly be answered soon enough.

    Here are the early grades for the Hanrahan trade between the Red Sox and the Pirates.

Jerry Sands, OF

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    The first component of the Joel Hanrahan trade is power-hitting outfielder prospect Jerry Sands. The former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect was acquired by the Boston Red Sox last summer in the Adrian Gonzalez midsummer blockbuster.  

    He never played a game in the Red Sox organization, as he was the “player to be named later” in the trade. He finished the 2012 season with the Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate, where he batted .296 with 26 home runs and 107 RBI.  

    There is some good news and some bad news for the Pirates in regard to Sands. The good news is that Sands has shown the ability to hit for power in the minor leagues. He has hit over 25 homers in the past two seasons with Albuquerque. He also has a .938 career OPS in the minor leagues—which is also pretty good.

    The knock on Sands seems to be the fact that he has never shown much promise on the major league level. On two separate occasions during the past two seasons the Dodgers brought up Sands to the majors, where he put up far less-than-stellar numbers—batting .244, with four home runs and 27 RBI in 221 at-bats.

    The Pirates ultimately hope that Sands will blossom into a power-hitting force to complement rising star Andrew McCutchen in the outfield.

Stolmy Pimentel, RHP

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    The second component of the Joel Hanrahan deal is right-handed pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel. The Dominican Republic-born hurler has languished at the Red Sox’s Double-A affiliate Portland for the past two seasons.

    He has put up a combined 6-16 record with a 5.96 ERA during the past two seasons at Portland. Pimentel has a career minor league record of 39-41 with a 4.37 ERA in 120 career starts.

    The knock on Pimentel is the fact that he gives up way too many hits. He does strike out people, as he did average 6.7 K/9 in 2012, which is a promising sign. Pimentel will have to develop a better fastball to go with his above-average changeup if he is ever to advance beyond Double-A level.

Pittsburgh Pirates Hanrahan Trade Grade: C

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    Well, this trade will only make sense if Sands develops into a consistent corner outfielder/first baseman power threat. He has shown signs of this on the minor league level but has failed to translate those skills over to the majors to this point.

    Losing Hanrahan can be absorbed if Jason Grilli can equal or better his closer stats. That may be asking a lot, though, out of Grilli. He has never saved more than two games in a season. Hanrahan has had his share of well-documented control problems (5.5 BB/9 in 2012) and could develop into a major headache for Boston.

    Pimentel has yet to develop beyond Double-A talent, and Mark Melancon has been nothing more than a journeyman reliever at this juncture of his career.

    It is also highly likely that the Hanrahan deal was a salary move, as he will be a free agent after the 2013 season. Hanrahan made S4.1 million in 2012 and is currently arbitration eligible.

    There are a lot of “what if’s?” surrounding this trade. If Sands can develop into a quality major league player, it will be a good move for the Bucs. The problem is Sands has not shown the ability to play on the major league level. Also, Pimentel has not posted a winning record in the minors since 2009, when he went 10-7 with a 3.82 ERA with Single-A Greenville. Not to mention, you are asking Grilli to take the reins of a closer’s role unfamiliar to him.

    Still, it was a deal that Pirates GM Neal Huntington had to make to ensure protection if they were unable to re-sign Hanrahan after the 2013 season.

    Grade: C

Joel Hanrahan, CP

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    The Boston Red Sox addressed a major offseason need by acquiring a closer, Joel Hanrahan. Boston was in need of bullpen insurance after incumbent closer Andrew Bailey missed most of the 2012 season with a myriad of injuries.

    Hanrahan pitched well during his time with the Pirates, as he posted a 10-8 record, 2.59 ERA and 82 saves. One concern that will undoubtedly have to be addressed by the Red Sox is Hanrahan’s propensity for walks—as he averaged 5.4 BB/9 in 2012.

    Red Sox GM Ben Cherington will have to decide whether or not to offer Hanrahan a contract extension, as he is slated to become a free agent after the 2013 season.

    Hanrahan is 22-17, 3.74 ERA, with 96 saves in six seasons with the Pirates and the Washington Nationals.

Boston Red Sox Hanrahan Grade: B

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    The Joel Hanrahan trade was a no-brainer for Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.

    Yes, there are some questions about Hanrahan and his lapses in pitch control. However, with all the questions with the back end of the Red Sox bullpen this was a trade Cherington had to make. Even if the Red Sox have to pay close to $7 million in 2013 for Hanrahan, it would be a bargain.

    The Red Sox will now hope that new manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves will be able to iron out Hanrahan’s control issues.

    Boston had to give up power-hitting outfield prospect Jerry Sands to complete the trade with the Bucs. Sands has shown the ability to hit for power in the minors, but that has yet to translate on the major league level. The Red Sox also sent Double-A right-handed pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel to the Pirates. Pimentel has yet to advance past Double-A level and has not posted a winning season since 2009.  

    The real caveat here could be how Hanrahan will handle the rigors of playing in Boston as well as in the ultra-competitive AL East. If the two-time NL All-Star can handle the pressure, this trade may prove to be a huge steal for the Red Sox.

    Grade: B

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