Joel Hanrahan’s Trade Value

Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun (via MLBTR) had an update yesterday on the Toronto Blue Jays’ pursuit of a closer.  Elliot says that the Blue Jays have been “shocked” by the asking prices of free agent closers this off-season.  Alex Anthopoulos said that the club’s greatest surplus was prospects, which Elliot took to mean that trading for a closer would be Toronto’s best option.

We saw Jonathan Papelbon sign a four year, $50 M contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last week, an amount that equals $6.25 M per win above replacement, based on Papelbon’s 2011 WAR.  Ryan Madson was rumored to be close to a four year, $44 M deal with the Phillies prior to their deal with Papelbon.  Madson’s deal would have been worth $5 M per WAR, based on his 2011 numbers.

I’ve mentioned many times that I feel the Pittsburgh Pirates should capitalize on the high values given to closers and trade Joel Hanrahan.  I reiterated that thought last week when Madson was rumored to be signing with the Phillies.  To get an idea of why a Hanrahan trade would be a smart move, let’s look at his trade value.

NOTE: The purpose is to see the values of these players, using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$6 M) – Salary] in this case) and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values.

Joel Hanrahan

Here is Hanrahan’s trade value:

2012 $4.0 2.9 $13.6
2013 $7.5 2.9 $7.2
TOTAL $11.5 5.8 $20.8
Hanrahan would be worth a top 50 pitching prospect or a top 51-75 hitting prospect.

Explanation: I’m basing his salary in his final two years of arbitration off of Heath Bell’s salary.  His WAR is based on his 2011 season numbers.  If the draft compensation system stays in place, Hanrahan would qualify as a Type A free agent.  I left that out of the above chart, but you could add $2.5 M per draft pick to the above total, depending on how many compensation picks Type A free agents will receive under the new CBA.

What He’s Worth: A $20.8 M value is just shy of a top 26-50 hitter ($23.4 M).  It definitely covers a top 50 pitching prospect ($15.9 M), a top 51-75 hitter ($14.2 M), or a top 76-100 hitter ($12.5 M).  Add in a grade B pitcher ($7.3 M) or a grade B hitter ($5.5 M) and Hanrahan could bring back two top prospects in a trade.  For those that are wondering, if the Pirates would have traded Hanrahan on July 31st, 2011, he would have had an additional $5.3 M in value, which is another grade B hitter added to the current trade value.

Analysis: As someone who has been calling for a Hanrahan trade since June, I would make this deal.  I’d even make the deal if it was just straight up for a top 50 pitching prospect or a 51-75 hitting prospect.  I don’t believe that relievers are this difficult to find.  Just look at Hanrahan.  The Pirates traded Sean Burnett to get Hanrahan as part of the Lastings Milledge for Nyjer Morgan swap.  The Burnett/Hanrahan swap was viewed as a swap to even out the difference between Morgan and Milledge, with Milledge being seen as the better player at the time.  A year later and Hanrahan was back to being a top reliever.  Two years later, Hanrahan was a top closer.

With the makeup of the current team, a starting pitcher or a starting fielder would have a bigger impact than a strong closer.  I’ll take the situation where the team is in position to win more often, rather than trying to hold on to as many wins as possible with a weaker team.  For all we know, someone like Jose Veras, Chris Resop, Evan Meek, Chris Leroux, or even Bryan Morris could step up as the next top closer.  And if you have doubts about any of those players, just keep in mind that they’re probably the same doubts that surrounded Hanrahan throughout his career, even heading in to the 2011 season.

Looking specifically at Toronto, we can rule out Brett Lawrie, Travis d’Arnaud, and Anthony Gose.  All three ranked in Baseball America’s mid-season top 50, and as shown above, a 26-50 hitting prospect (d’Arnaud and Gose) would be an over-payment for Hanrahan.  The exception is if Hanrahan also gets value for compensation picks.  Lawrie was a projected top ten prospect ($36.5 M), and doesn’t have prospect eligibility anymore, so he’s out of the picture no matter what.  Compensation picks would put d’Arnaud and Gose within range. Outside of those three, anyone else in the Toronto system would seem fair value in a multi-player trade.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that Toronto needs a second baseman.  Elliot mentioned in his article that Brandon Phillips is available.  I would think that Toronto would prefer to use their top prospects on a second baseman before turning to their closer needs, although they’ve got enough prospects to make a deal for each position.

Boston is another team looking for closers, although they might be more open to paying the top free agent prices that Toronto seems to be avoiding.  If Boston looked to the trade market, Anthony Ranaudo would be fair value.  He was the number 37 prospect in Baseball America’s mid-season top 50.  Boston matches up well with the Pirates’ needs, specifically with their shortstops.  However, they are in a much better situation to go the free agent route and save their prospects.

Hanrahan won’t be the only closer on the trade market.  Andrew Bailey and Carlos Marmol are two names that have been mentioned elsewhere as possible trade candidates.  I don’t think Toronto will be the only team potentially looking to the trade market for a cheaper bullpen option, so the Pirates shouldn’t be hurt by other options on the market.

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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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Matt Beam

two4emc – I like your thinking, Alonso could be our 1B for the next 5-6 years… wonder if that trade would need to be straight up or if we could get them to throw in Zack Cozart at SS?

The other guy that interests me would be the COL 3B prospect (Nolan A?) that was just the AFL MVP. COL doesn’t seem happy with Huston Street as their closer and this guy seems like the power hitting prospect we’re missing. Best case, Pedro finds himself and moves to 1B over the next year to make room for this guy. thoughts?

Vince Riedy

What about Kyle Drabek? He got hit around a bit when he came up but I’ve seen him pitch in AAA and he has great movement on his pitches just like his father.


What would the trade value be for a player like Yonder Alonso who is blocked at this natural position?


I’ve been following your petition and would just like to chime in and say “Its a great idea. This fan votes go on that trade.”


I would rather build the team with elite pitching both starting and in the pen, I don’t believe quality relievers are a dime a dozen, especially closers and setup guys.
I would bend if they could get Lawrie, he would be one of the top players on this team as soon as they got him. I realize they could not get Lawrie for Hanrahan, so it would probably have to be a package deal, of which I am open. One thing I would not go for no matter what, is a bunch of prospects for Hanrahan. They need players to help this club in 2012 and I am not punting on 2012.


First, this was an excellent article.  It perfectly highlights why Hanrahan is the Pirates best trading piece and why he should be traded.

Second, quality relievers are a dime a dozen.  Look at Hanrahan, he was a throw in from the Nationals because he was under achieving.  To be honest, he was a discard from the Nationals.

Further evidence would be the Pirates closers over the past few years.  Everyone from Williams to Dotel was a reject from another system.  All had good to very good production with the Pirates.

If you take an honest look at the best closers this year, you will see that most of them are some other club’s reject or a failed starter.

Among all the positions and roles on a baseball team, closers are probably the easiest to replace.  Hanrahan has huge value.  He needs to be dealt while that value is high. 


Can’t see the Blue Jays trading Lawrie.  He’s probably more important to the team than Bautista.  He’s part of the whole Canada’s team concept they are using to build their brand.


Does Seattle need a closer?  Could we go Hanny and McPherson for Smoak if they make a play for Fielder?
I like the idea of Toronto’s catchers…but gotta feeling there is no chance there. 
I also like the idea of taking chances on Bedard and Broxton. 

white angus

too much to give up for Smoak.  no reason to throw mcpherson in on that one, or vice versa.
the Rays may need a closer if Farnsworth implodes, which he may.

Brian Bernard

John how many elite prospects at positions do we have??? not that many by my estimation especially at SS, C, 1B, 3B… A power hitting excellent receiver like T. D’arnaud would be a great addition to the team.
As much as I like Hammer, you can find relievers just like Atlanta did last year. Justin Wilson a lefty at AAA was throwing 99mph last year – I’ll take my chances with him and get a toolsy position guy to play with him for the next 6-10 yrs.

white angus

i dont see the Jays giving up d’Arnaud for the hammer.  travis is arguable the top catching prospect in the game.


This is nothing more than spin for another in a long series of SALARY DUMPS.  We have propsects tripping over one another right now, we need major league ball players, not more suspects.


He is a position player ranked in the 50-75 range. His value is with his glove. Have you ever seen him play? He can pick it. You can’t expect much more than that, look what the sox have invested in him.



Would Hanrahan for Jose Iglesias be equal value?

Patrick Kelly

Whats with people and Iglesias? He’s not that good. Can’t hit worth a damn and not a great glove from what I understand. Would be a bad trade for the Bucs if that is the route that they went.

white angus

Iglesias has the potential to be a game changing glove.  any production from his stick would be gravy.

David Kaufman

I think Hanrahan to Toronto for d’Arnaud is a fair return. This way, we got two brothers who both play shallow positions and it would free up even more money to sign a mid tier free agent like Carlos Pena or Edwin Jackson. Plus, they have Jimenez and Arencibia.

Another deal I would make would be a package built around either Hutchison or McGuire
with a couple decent spects like Aaron Sanchez or that ss with the long last name(hechivarney something like that)

Another deal I would do would be Henderson Alvarez and someone like Eric Thames….both have played in majors.

Yet another deal I would make would be hammer for Brandon Morrow straight up.


If they are going to trade they need to stick to their guns and get above market value for him.  No reason that a team who needs a dominant closer shouldn’t be willing to give up a top prospect that is close to majors.  


Having a good closer is like the cherry on top of the sundae.  But ask yourself, what good is the cherry if it’s on top of a turd sundae?

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