The New York Yankees have already been connected to Grant Balfour to help fill the void left by the retiring Mariano Rivera and the inevitable shifting of the bullpen that will result. David Robertson will likely get first crack at the closer job but so far GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi have not guaranteed Robertson will be given the job. That could be nothing more than a smokescreen, the idea of an open competition to entice free agent relievers looking for a chance to close. There is, however, one name out there the Yankees could be taking a long look at and that is Joel Hanrahan.
Hanrahan, 32, underwent Tommy John surgery in May and would still need time to rehab. The Yankees have a history with signing pitchers and giving them the time to rehab in the hopes that they will be able to contribute. Octavio Dotel and Jon Lieber come to mind in that regard so this is something Cashman has done in the past.
Prior to last season, Hanrahan was acquired by the Boston Red Sox as closer insurance for Andrew Bailey. He pitched in nine games, recorded four saves but also featured a 9.82 ERA. Chalk last season up to his elbow being off, hence his needing surgery.
In 2012, Hanrahan saved 36 games, featured a 2.72 ERA and 10.1 K/9 ratio with 67 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings. In 2011, he saved 40 games with a 1.83 ERA and 8.0 K/9 ratio with 61 punch-outs in 68 2/3 innings. He has had success as a closer, albeit in the National League but for a mediocre at best Pittsburgh Pirates team.
Hanrahan’s bread and butter is a four-seam fastball that sits in the mid-90s and he can reach back and hit the upper-90s when needed. His second best pitch is a slider that sits in the upper-80s. Obviously, there is a chance that his stuff might not be as electric as it was before the surgery but Tommy John surgery tends to be somewhat routine in this day and age.
Despite still recovering Hanrahan could find quite a few teams interested in his services. He won’t get a large deal, especially with the relief and closer market being among the deepest in free agency this year. However, a team could get him with an affordable base salary and escalator clauses based on games finished or appearances that sweetens the deal a little. The Yankees could be interested in bringing Hanrahan on board, letting him rehab and then using him as a one-two punch with Shawn Kelley in the late innings, or as a potential candidate for the closers job if Robertson can’t hold onto it.