Rumblings first leaked late last week that the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates were deep into discussions revolving around right-hander Joel Hanrahan. News had broken that a deal was near and that some parameters had been already agreed upon – notably the inclusion of right-hander Stolmy Pimental and outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands in the deal – but it had become apparent that nothing would be finalized until after the Christmas holiday. The two sides didn’t wait long once the holiday had passed, announcing late Wednesday morning that they had completed a six player deal.
It’s hardly a surprise to see the Pirates wanting to move Hanrahan, mainly because he’s set to earn a projected $6.9 Million via arbitration for the 2013 season before hitting the free agent market. Pittsburgh knew their opportunity to move him and recoup something decent in return consisted of a small window, otherwise he’d leave next winter and the team would be left with nothing. The 31 year old has blossomed with the Pirates over the past three plus seasons, saving 82 games and making the NL All Star roster in each of the past two seasons. In 2012 he made 63 appearances, posting a 2.72 ERA and 10.1 K/9 over 59.2 innings of work. His walk rate this past season, 5.4 BB/9, is troubling as it represents a significant leap up from his previous two seasons. Concerns over his perceived command troubles and rumblings about poor conditioning habits seemingly left many rival evaluators standing on the sidelines this winter, recommending their teams pursue other options first rather than creating a strong market for Hanrahan.
He was linked to the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners at times this winter, though no deal ever appeared close with either team. With Boston Hanrahan is expected to step right into the team’s closer role, pushing Andrew Bailey into a setup capacity (barring another trade).
Holt, meanwhile, made his MLB Debut this past September for the Pirates, appearing in 24 games. He hit .292/.329/.354 over 72 plate appearances in that span, exclusively seeing time as a second baseman and pinch hitter.
The 24 year old spent the bulk of the 2012 season with Double-A Altoona, though he did spend some brief time at Triple-A Indianapolis. Combined he hit .344/.406/.453 on the year in 538 plate appearances. While he’s not a big home run hitter (3 total on the 2012 season), he does show some solid power to the gaps (31 doubles, 6 triples) and has shown some good speed on the bases (16 stolen bases, 29 attempts). Since being drafted in 2009 he’s spent most of his minor league career at either second base or shortstop, giving the Red Sox some added depth at both positions. Holt is on the team’s 40-man roster but appears unlikely to land a spot off the bench in Spring Training, likely landing him at Triple-A Pawtucket until an opportunity in Boston becomes available.
Heading the other way in this deal, the Pirates receive a quartet of players, three of whom have seen time in the Major Leagues.
Melancon is easily the most experienced of the group, having thrown 157.0 innings over parts of the past four seasons. He’s posted a 4.07 ERA, 8.0 K/9, and 3.2 BB/9 over that span, saving 21 games. 2012 started out on the rough side after Boston acquired him from the Houston Astros last winter. Melancon struggled mightily over his first few appearances, including an outing against Texas in which he allowed six runs on four hits without getting an out. Melancon headed back to the minors after that outing, but returned in early June to better results. He’d pitch 43.0 innings over the remainder of the season, posting a 4.19 ERA while holding opponents to a .217/.274/.323 line.
The 27 year old is also well-travelled at this point in his career, having now been traded for the third time. Melancon was once viewed by some as the heir apparent to the closer’s role in New York before the Yankees dealt him to Houston during the 2010 season. He’s expected to slide into the Pirates’ bullpen, likely in a setup role for new closer Jason Grilli. Since his inclusion in this deal has been rumored since last weekend numerous people have come out and suggested that Melancon could be primed for a big season with the move to Pittsburgh after finishing the 2012 season on such a strong note.
Sands and De Jesus were both part of Boston’s blockbuster deal from this past August with the Los Angeles Dodgers, though Sands’ inclusion was as a player to be named later so he didn’t officially join the Sox organization until after the season concluded. The 25 year old saw time in 70 games for the Dodgers over the past two seasons, with most of that time coming during the 2011 season, hitting .244/.325/.376 over 251 plate appearances. He spent the bulk of 2012 with Triple-A Albuquerque in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, batting .296/.375/.524 with 26 HR and 107 RBI over 522 plate appearances before the deal with Boston effectively ended his season after 119 games. Considering the defensive versatility he brings to the table, Sands could be in line to win some quality playing time with the Pirates if he’s able to have a strong showing in Spring Training.
De Jesus spent most of 2012 in the minor leagues, appearing in a combined 67 games between the Dodgers and Red Sox organizations. He hit .304/.343/.416 in 271 plate appearances over that span, seeing time at three infield positions and even the corner outfield spots. The 25 year old son of a former Major Leaguer has seen just 80 plate appearances in the Majors over the past two seasons, batting .205/.253/.247.
Finally, there’s Pimental, a soon-to-be 23 year old that the Sox signed originally out of the Dominican Republic at age 17. He’s spent the past six seasons in Boston’s minor league system, topping out at Double-A, a level he repeated this past season. He made 22 starts for Double-A Portland this past year, posting a 6-7 record and 4.59 ERA over 115.2 innings. Over his two seasons at the level he’s 6-16 with a 5.96 ERA and 1.536 WHIP.
Pimental has long been a target of Pittsburgh, as WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reminds us. Pittsburgh pushed hard for his inclusion in the team’s 2008 three-team trade that sent Jason Bay to Boston and Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles. At the time, Pimental was ranked among Boston’s top prospects (#6 prior to that season) and Boston was hesitant to let him go. At the time some believed that Pimental could develop into a top of the rotation starter, though his recent struggles leave numerous questions about his future open.