I know this news is a day old now but I thought I would chime in with my own thoughts. Hanrahan was a great player for the Pirates for the last 2.5 years and will be missed as he should be but there is no reason to express outrage at the Pirates having traded a relief pitcher. Was the return the Pirates got for him great? No but I feel it was adequate and matched up with his value fairly well. Small market teams such as the Pirates need to concentrate their resources to the everyday lineup and the starting rotation not towards the bench and the bullpen and for that reason Hanrahan had to be moved so the scarce resources could be better distributed. Still the Pirates dealt away a good pitcher and I know I am going to miss seeing him pitch and getting excited for hammer time. I will admit some times I root against players when they leave Pittsburgh but that isn’t the case with Hanrahan I hope he saves 50 games and is named an All Star once more. Good luck in Boston.
Now on to the actual trade. I see the trade as having two parts a major part and a minor part I would first like to discuss the minor part which I feel was Brock Holt for Ivan De Jesus and Stolmy Pimentel. Honestly I don’t see much value in these 3 players. Holt was decent with the bat in his brief major league appearance but is really poor defensively even as a 2B and since he doesn’t hit for any power that makes him basically just a utility infielder that probably shouldn’t even fill in as a shortstop. De Jesus is a very similar player to Holt as he has shown some ability to hit (mainly in the minors) and has struggled defensively at SS. On the plus side though De Jesus does seem like a capable defensive 2B and can probably play defense at shortstop well enough to serve as a bench option. Overall I would say Holt is slightly better than De Jesus but the difference is small and when speaking of two players who might be utility infielders it is probably negligible. Now as for Stolmy Pimentel I will admit he appears to be an interesting prospect. Pimentel has some definite talent but he has stalled in AA the last two seasons and with this being his last option year is really running out of time. I don’t think there is enough time for the Pirates to keep trotting him out there as a starter in hopes he develops into a back of the rotation starter so I imagine we will see him moved to the bullpen to begin the year. There is a reasonable chance that like quite a few other players in the Pirates system that Pimentel could thrive there and quickly become an asset for the Pirates. Pimentel has the talent and is an interesting lottery ticket in this trade. Still in reality this trade isn’t about these 3 players Holt and De Jesus are essentially an equal swap and Pimentel is a lottery ticket who if the Pirates hit on great but if not its no big loss as he was really just a throw in. This trade for all intents and purposes is about the major part of the deal.
What I call the major part of the deal is Hanrahan for Melancon and Sands. I’ve already discussed what I think Hanrahan brings to the Red Sox and in reality when discussing what the Pirates got back whether Hanrahan performs well or not is meaningless. Melancon looks like a nice reliever for the Pirates. Last season with the exception of his ERA his stat line actually was better than Hanrahan’s. That isn’t to say Melancon is a better pitcher than Hanrahan but it should say that he is a good reliever. The Pirates have control over Melancon for the next 4 seasons and as an added bonus he has experience pitching in the back end of a major league bullpen as he was the Houston Astros closer in 2011. Last season Melancon was beat up in his first few outings with the Red Sox but that came because of an insane home run problem which is unlikely to be a recurring problem as he is actually a ground ball pitcher. This season Melancon looks like a good bet to start the season as the Pirates primary set up man for Jason Grilli and there are plenty of reasons to think he will do well in that role. Having Melancon in this deal makes me feel pretty good about the Pirates chances of at least getting something in return. The last player in the deal and the one who I thinks plays the most pivotal point in deciding the fate of this deal for the Pirates is Jerry Sands. Really I’m not sure why the Pirates acquired Sands as Gaby Sanchez and Jose Tabata appear set to play either of the roles Sands would be the best in but I’d imagine his acquisition is a precursor to another move (more on that later). Sands has displayed some good power numbers in the minor leagues but they come with the caveat of him having played in a hitter friendly league and in a hitter friendly park. However Sands also held his own in the majors in 2011 when the Dodgers had him in the show. Sands could definitely develop into a nice right handed stick for the Pirates either at 1B or RF but he comes with risks as well as the power he showed in the minors was absent in his major league stint. Sands defense isn’t bad but since he is a 1B or corner outfielder his bat is going to have to carry him and I have my doubts it will. I really don’t like Sands and I think his ceiling is a Matt Diaz type and that he is likely to just be a AAAA slugger but he does have some potential. If Sands develops into a successful major league this deal is a huge win for the Pirates but if he doesn’t I still think Melancon can salvage this deal for the Pirates.
Overall this was an adequate albeit not exciting return for Hanrahan. Melancon should come close to matching Hanrahan’s production and will be controlled by the Pirates longer and Sands gives the Pirates the potential to possibly have this deal tip heavily in their favor. Add in Pimentel who is a lottery ticket with decent odds and a fairly meaningless swap of utility infielders and the Pirates package might actually be just a touch higher than Hanrahan’s actual value. Overall this a deal from a fan perspective I hate to see happen but from a baseball perspective I understand why it had to be done. Now the only question remaining is what happens next?
I normally do not write about every little move the Pirates make like this but I have a soft spot for Clint Robinson. First however I will touch on the two pitchers. Vin Mazzaro and Zach Stewart add some good depth to the Pirates bullpen. Neither of them particularly stand out but either one could turn out to be a serviceable reliever. Mazzaro is out of options so I would not be surprised to see the Pirates keep him in the bullpen at the start of the season. There are not a whole lot of certainties in the Pirates bullpen and Mazzaro at least provides a little upside over say keeping a guy like Resop around for 1.5 million. Stewart has an option remaining so it would appear the Pirates will more than likely use him as AAA depth. He was once a top prospect so the ceiling is certainly there but so far like Mazzaro the major league success hasn’t been there. Nonetheless Stewart is still probably a more interesting arm to keep at AAA for depth instead of say Daniel McCutchen.
As for what the Pirates gave up there is essentially nothing of significance. They gave a PTBNL to Boston for Stewart so that will likely be a low upside player in the lower levels or an organizational player. They gave up Luis Rico and Luis Santos to acquire Robinson and Mazzaro. I never actually heard of Rico before today but the Pirates gave him a fairly large signing bonus of 280K in 2011 so there must be some upside there. Still his 2012 performance was quite poor as he showed essentially no command. Luis Santos posted better numbers in the DSL but this was his 3rd year at the level and at 21 he is old for the level. Neither is much of a prospect though I suppose they do have some upside.
Now for the reason I decided to write this, Clint Robinson. I can’t recall if I campaigned for him on my blog but I was a pretty vocal supporter of the Pirates acquiring Robinson from the Royals this past spring. He will be 28 years old next season so he is not be confused as a prospect but he does seem to have some upside. Robinson has only had 4 major league AB despite tearing it up for his minor league career. The Royals have had Hosmer and Butler in front of him and really had no reason to try him. Robinson has been a good all around hitter in the minors showing power, contact skills and plate discipline. I have no fantasies that he will be an impact player but he certainly looks like he has the potential to be a good bat off the bench or possibly even an adequate starter at 1B. He does have an option remaining so I’m guessing the Pirates will keep him at AAA to start the season but should Jones be needed in the corner outfielder I would have to assume Robinson would be the first to get the call and be given a chance at platooning with Sanchez at 1B. He is a good low risk pick up for the Pirates and who knows maybe he can become our next Garrett Jones.
The 40 man roster is now full but with the tender deadline fast approaching it is conceivable the Pirates could open up a few more roster spots.