Red Sox get closer Hanrahan in six-player deal
The Red Sox on Wednesday acquired closer Joel Hanrahan from the Pirates as part of a six-player trade.
BOSTON -- At the start of the offseason, the goal of Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell focused on improving and adding depth to the roster.
Farrell already has decided Hanrahan will be the team's closer heading into spring training, and Andrew Bailey, who was the incumbent closer but had last season cut short by injury, will serve as a late-inning setup man.
"I can't say that we went in specifically looking to upgrade or change the closer situation," Farrell said. "But as this offseason evolved, acquiring Hanrahan was a chance to do just that, and that's to improve the overall team and to add a guy with his performance history."
Farrell spoke with both Hanrahan and Bailey about their respective roles as the club prepares for spring training.
"We see Andrew as playing a very important role at the back end of our bullpen as well," Red Sox assistant GM Brian O'Halloran said. "There will be plenty of opportunities for him to help us win games in key situations late in the game and we know he's very capable of both closing and pitching in other leverage situations at the end of games. But it's not too often you get a chance to add a two-time All-Star closer to the mix, so we're excited to do that with Joel and we think it will strengthen the group and make everybody better out there."
Even before the trade was complete, Farrell informed Bailey of the team's intentions in regards to Hanrahan.
"We wanted to make sure we were out front of it a little bit," Farrell said. "We wanted to make him aware he heard from us first on this. As this deal was starting to come to a head, I just let him know what our intent was and our approach in the offseason, and that was to improve the team however we could.
"Andrew will pitch in critical moments and critical spots late in the game. I think Joel, having been a two-time All-Star as a closer the last two years, and Andrew has had success in his own right, this just bolsters the strength of our team even more so."
There are still more than six weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Fla., for spring training, but Farrell likes how his bullpen is shaping up.
With the additions of Hanrahan and Koji Uehara, having a healthy and productive Daniel Bard, along with Bailey, Alfredo Aceves, Junichi Tazawa and left-handers Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller, Boston's bullpen looks solid.
"If all those guys pitch to their capabilities and remain healthy, once we enter spring training and the start of the season, the roles will become more defined," Farrell said. "But on days when certain guys might need a little bit of a rest, we've got depth and options that have closed out games in the past, and we feel like the group will benefit from one another.
"The depth and the quality of the relieving group that we have in place doesn't take away from our need to continue to get Daniel Bard back to the level he's pitched previous, but when you think of him in the group, with the addition of Uehara, and the continued emergence of Junichi, and then the left-handed complement of Miller and Breslow, this is a very strong group."
In the deal, the Red Sox sent pitchers Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan De Jesus and first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands to Pittsburgh. Along with Hanrahan, the Red Sox received infielder Brock Holt.
Melancon was 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA in 41 relief appearances in his only season with Boston after being dealt to the team from the Houston Astros. Pimentel spent the season at Double-A Portland. Sands and DeJesus were obtained in a trade that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 25.
The Red Sox also officially announced the signing of shortstop Stephen Drew, whose addition fills out the team's 40-man roster.
Drew's deal calls for a $9.5 million salary and $500,000 in performance bonuses, sources told ESPNBoston.com last week.
The 31-year-old Hanrahan is a year away from free agency. Over the past two seasons, the right-hander had 76 saves (84 chances), fourth most in the National League, and a 2.24 ERA. Last season, he was 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 36 saves.
Hanrahan described his recent talk with Farrell as "a great conversation."
"He told me that they're excited for me and they first had me on their radar in 2011 during an interleague series and they look forward to having me in the bullpen there and closing for them," Hanrahan said. "I'm just excited for the opportunity. I wasn't sure what my role was going to be because they have guys there who have closed before and have had great success closing as well. I'm just looking forward for the opportunity to work with everybody this year."
Hanrahan earned $4.1 million in 2012 and can expect a significant bump in salary arbitration, probably close to $7 million. Along with an impressive save percentage (90 percent) over his two-year stint as closer in Pittsburgh, Hanrahan had 128 strikeouts in 128 1/3 innings.
Despite hamstring and ankle injuries in 2012, Hanrahan said he's healthy and has been throwing for a month.
"I feel great," he said. "Obviously throughout the season you get a couple of bumps and bruises, but I took some time off after the year and I've been working out in Dallas and I've been throwing for about a month now. My arm feels great and my legs feel great. I'm just looking forward to spring training."
Hanrahan has spent all six seasons of his big league career in the National League. Even though the AL East is considered one of the most competitive divisions in the majors, the Red Sox believe Hanrahan can handle the pressure of being the closer in Boston.
"We think that Joel Hanrahan has the stuff to pitch anywhere," O'Halloran said. "He's been a very successful closer in the National League and his stuff is right at top of the scale. He's got a fastball in the upper 90s, and when he's right, his slider is as good as anybody's in baseball.
"We really believe this guy's stuff plays anywhere and he's got that experience closing successfully for two years as an All-Star. We're excited to bring him over and have him help us win games."
During his introductory conference call Wednesday afternoon, Hanrahan admitted he's never been to Fenway Park. Even though his wife is originally from Brockton, Mass., the only time Hanrahan has been to Boston was for a family wedding. In fact, Fenway Park is only one of four ballparks he has not pitched in during his big league career.
"I've only seen Fenway in movies," Hanrahan said. "I've never actually been there. I've been to Boston once for a wedding and that was a quick trip in and out of there. I don't know a lot about the city. I don't know much about the stadium. I'll be able to call that home this year and I'm looking forward to that."
Despite pitching in the NL Central, Hanrahan does have experience against the Red Sox.
During an interleague series against the Red Sox at PNC Field in Pittsburgh in 2011, Hanrahan collected back-to-back saves (his 21st and 22nd of the season) on June 24 and 25. O'Halloran admitted that performance made a "strong" impression on the Red Sox.
On June 24, the Pirates held a 3-1 lead when Hanrahan took the ball in the top of the ninth inning. He faced the top of the order and retired Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Gonzalez to end the game.
On June 25, Pittsburgh held a 6-4 lead when Hanrahan again was called into service in the top of the ninth. He quickly recorded two outs before Pedroia doubled. Hanrahan then struck out Gonzalez to end the game as the Pirates took two of three games in that series.
"It was obviously a big series," Hanrahan recalled. "The Pirates were in a good spot, I think we might have been in first or second place at that time. The stadium was sold out that weekend and I got that strikeout of Adrian Gonzalez to end the game and I think when people look back at me as a Pirate, that's one that stands out the most to them.
"It was a fun weekend. The Red Sox came into Pittsburgh and people thought they were going to boss the Pirates around that weekend and we took two out of three from them. It was a good time. It was fun."
In 2011, Hanrahan issued only 16 walks in 68 2/3 innings of work. Those numbers increased in 2012 as he walked 36 in 59 2/3 innings. He explained Wednesday that the ankle injury he suffered late last season forced him to wear a tight brace that restricted his mechanics. Hanrahan added he doesn't believe the walks will be a concern in 2013.
The Red Sox said they looked very closely at the reasons for the increase in walks for Hanrahan. In fact, Farrell already has spoken with Hanrahan about correcting those numbers. Hanrahan will also speak with Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves and bullpen coach Gary Tuck at some point this offseason.
"It's not something we're concerned about long term," O'Halloran said. "We believe we're going to get the guy that has been a great closer for two years. Although we did pay close attention to (the walks) and looked into that, we feel very comfortable and confident he will be a very good closer for us going forward."
The 24-year-old Holt spent most of the 2012 season with the Pirates' Double-A and Triple-A clubs, where he hit a combined .344 with 31 doubles, 3 homers and an .859 OPS. He played in 24 games for the Pirates last season (all in September), hitting .292 in 65 at-bats.
"We're also excited to acquire Brock Holt in this trade," O'Halloran said. "He's a 24-year-old infielder, left-handed hitter that complements the mix of middle infielders that we bring into camp. We think he'll be a good player for us going forward. He's a very hard-nosed player, the type of guy that has a lot of success in the minor leagues and in a brief callup in September to Pittsburgh. We're excited to have him and the energy he brings to the table. He has a line-drive stroke and we think he'll be a good addition to our middle infield core."
Drew, 29, is the younger brother of former Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew. The younger Drew will wear No. 7 with the Red Sox, just as his brother did.
"He was one of the better every-day shortstops in baseball for quite a stretch and then he had the really bad ankle fracture he suffered in 2011 and it took him the full year (in 2012) to get back out playing, which is understandable because it's a very difficult injury," O'Halloran said. "But he played well down the stretch and helped Oakland in their stretch drive and in the playoffs after the trade."
The Red Sox brought Drew to Boston for a physical and were pleased with the results.
"Our folks are very pleased with his progress," O'Halloran said. "It was obvious to them how hard he had worked, given the nature of that injury how hard he had worked to strengthen it. We feel that he's going to be fully healthy for us and he's going to make us a better team. We're excited to have him."
There was no update on the status of first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli, who reportedly reached an agreement with the Red Sox more than three weeks ago but whose deal has been held up by issues with his physical.
"I can't comment on it specifically," O'Halloran said. "There's nothing new from when Ben (Cherington) spoke the last time (last week at a news conference announcing the signing of Ryan Dempster). We do continue to talk to a number of free agents and there are conversations ongoing, as Ben alluded to previously."
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