Why? They have a two-time All-Star closer in Joel Hanrahan. They certainly won’t be calling Soriano’s agent expressing their interest.
But there should be multiple teams who are. And whichever teams lose out on Soriano, or balk at his asking price, should get a call from the Pirates immediately afterwards.
Joel Hanrahan has been very good as the Pirates closer over the past few years, but he’s getting expensive. Making $4.1 million in 2012, Hanrahan now heads into his third year of arbitration and could make between $6-7 million in 2013.
That’s too much for the Pirates to pay for a closer.
With their budget, even as it grows little by little each year, the Pirates can’t afford to overpay for saves the way some teams do. But a bona fide closer like Hanrahan offers a high value for a team that can afford to pay him.
Those teams are out there.
The Boston Red Sox, for example, need to solidify their bullpen. They will likely be speaking to Soriano, but should be could also afford to pay Hanrahan as a set-up man if they get Soriano, or use Hanrahan as the closer if they don’t sign Soriano.
The Detroit Tigers are poised for another post-season run, but will be doing so without closer Jose Valverde. Hanrahan would greatly help solidify their bullpen.
The Los Angeles Angels are in the process of overhauling their pitching staff and their closer’s role experiences some turbulence during the 2012 season. They are discussing the possibility of moving Dan Haren, and I mentioned earlier this week that the Pirates should have interest in him. A possible swap between Hanrahan and Haren (likely along with other pieces) could be a possibility.
While a trade of Hanrahan would likely leave Pirates claiming that nothing has changed in Pittsburgh, this would not just be a move in line with the two-decade tradition of trading the team’s best players once they get expensive. Closers are not only over-valued, but they are also imminently replaceable.
When Hanrahan emerged as the Pirates closer, he had already failed as a starter and been given up on as a middle reliever by the Washington Nationals. Even the Pirates didn’t see this coming. They’ll be able to replace him for much a much cheaper salary.
In return for Hanrahan, they should be able to get either a few major league pieces or a major league ready prospect, possibly even a pitching prospect ready to take on a role of his own in their bullpen. Shedding his salary would allow them to reallocate their funds to fill bigger holes on their roster, while still collecting their saves at half the cost.