Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports had the following comment about Pittsburgh Pirates relievers Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek in his column today:
The Pirates are comfortable with their internal options at closer, Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan. But one source suggested that Pittsburgh could deal one of the two and sign a replacement.
Dealing one of the two relievers would be a smart move for the Pirates, depending on the return. Both are very high in value, coming off great seasons in 2010. They also might fetch the biggest return for the Pirates, without giving up an important piece on the team. Last month, in my recap of the 2010 bullpen, I mentioned Hanrahan as a “sell high” candidate. Here is the summary:
I wouldn’t rule out an eventual trade, specifically with a guy like Hanrahan. If the Pirates could package Hanrahan as part of a deal to get a starting pitching upgrade or a position player upgrade, they should definitely take advantage, provided the player in return is under team control for multiple seasons. One thing that was understated in 2010 was just how dominant Hanrahan was. Out of 134 qualified relievers, Hanrahan finished with the third best strikeout rate. The only pitchers who topped him were Carlos Marmol and Billy Wagner, and Marmol had some major struggles with his walks.
With Meek and Resop holding down the late innings, and several high upside options in AA/AAA next season, it could make sense to sell high on Hanrahan to fill one of the needs in the rotation, or at either first base, shortstop, or right field.
We saw last year how easy it can be to build a bullpen through free agency. It’s definitely easier than adding a starting pitcher, or a first base/right field or shortstop option on the open market. The Pirates currently have Evan Meek and Chris Resop in the back of the bullpen, so they wouldn’t necessarily have to look for a closer or a set-up man like they did last year.
Hanrahan has three years of arbitration ahead of him. His value, based on his 2010 performance, is similar to a top 50 pitching prospect, or a 51-100 hitting prospect. The Pirates could use him as a trade chip in a package to land an established player, or they could use him to land a top prospect who is blocked at the major league level. If the Pirates can get James McDonald and Andrew Lambo for a rental like Octavio Dotel, and the Washington Nationals can get Wilson Ramos for one year and two months of Matt Capps, then the Pirates could get a big return for three years of Hanrahan.
The Pirates also have some potential back of the bullpen guys coming up through the farm system in the next year or two, led by Diego Moreno and Daniel Moskos, who were two of the top relief pitching prospects in the minors in 2010. The loss of Hanrahan might not even be noticed, especially when you consider the type of return the Pirates could get for a reliever with his numbers and three years of control remaining.