I’ve been championing for the Pittsburgh Pirates to trade Joel Hanrahan all off-season. With his contract on the rise as he enters his final year of arbitration, he now costs more than the Pirates can afford to pay for saves. Additionally, with few reliable closers available on the free agent market, he could offer teams with a higher payroll a more affordable option to solidify the back of their bullpen.
But I understand why the Pirates waited. Without a proven backup option in fold, the Pirates didn’t want to leave their bullpen without a true power arm. After all, the Pirates are trying to remain competitive this season and are not rebuilding.
But now that Jason Grilli is back with the team and is more than capable of collecting Hanrahan’s saves, the current closer needs to become the Pirates’ former closer.
The Pirates need to continue to to add young–and, more importantly, inexpensive–talent to their strong mid-20’s nucleus.
There isn’t a huge market of teams looking for closers that will be willing to pay Hanrahan’s price tag and will be willing to give up talent for just one year of Hanrahan’s service. But it doesn’t take a huge market. It only takes one buyer.
The Detroit Tigers could be interested in Hanrahan. Typically with a pretty flexible payroll and plenty of money to work with, the Tigers battled bullpen issues in their 2012 postseason run. Having let last year’s closer Jose Valverde go, they have no proven late-inning arms on their roster. Hanrahan would give them an experienced closer.
The Toronto Blue Jays have made it clear that they are on the attack for the 2013 season and now have a revamped lineup and starting rotation. Last year’s closer acquisition, Serigio Santos, has shoulder surgery last July and is leaving the Blue Jays possibly looking for another late-inning arm.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are always a possibility, as they’ve proven this off-season that they are willing to pay top dollar, even for things like a middle-reliever. Don’t count out the possibility of turning Hanrahan into an expensive set-up man.
Despite a possible limited market, there are potential fits for Hanrahan. The Pirates don’t need to ask for the world. They just need to get something decent in return. The salary they save by trading Hanrahan will allow them to make an additional move if they act quickly and any young talent will help their quest to break the .500 mark.