Pirates ship Hanrahan, Holt up to Boston

Over the past few weeks, numerous rumors floated around Major League Baseball regarding a possible Joel Hanrahan trade.

Those rumors slowly became a reality on Saturday afternoon, as the Boston Red Sox closed in on a deal that would bring the two-time All-Star closer to Beantown. Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston was the first to report the rumblings.

Although a Hanrahan trade was inevitable heading into this offseason, this is still a tough pill to swallow for select Bucco fans. While the closer position is overrated, Hammer was a fan-favorite that saved 76 games over the last two seasons.

Neither of us are too upset that Hanrahan is gone. It was nearly guaranteed that he’d be traded this offseason. But we weren’t immediately pleased about what the Pirates got in return. We were pretty bummed to see the deal centered around former Dodgers prospect Jerry Sands. Boston beat writer Pete Abraham summed it up this way:

Apparently the Pirates are receiving “spare parts” after demanding a signficant return earlier.

From the opposite side of the debate, Jeff Moore of The Hardball Times claims that the Pirates have made a good baseball move.

Anyway, one name that frequently popped up as a possible return was shortstop Jose Iglesias. Despite a weak bat, Iglesias provides value defensively, as he’s great with the glove. Clint Barmes’ contract expires after 2013, and Iglesias is under team control until 2018. We would’ve liked this addition, as he could’ve stepped into the starting shortstop role after splitting time season. However, he was the first name to be eliminated from discussions:

The first member of the BoSox that was confirmed to be part of the package was 1B/OF Jerry Sands. Sands, 25, was sent to Boston from the Dodgers in the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford, among others, to LA. According to Jim Bowden of ESPN, he has a long, loopy swing. He is a career .289/.376/.562 hitter in the minors, but hasn’t found much success in 70 MLB games.

Sands just adds to the logjam of first basemen and corner outfielders the Pirates have. Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez are penciled in at first, while a bunch of underachievers, including Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, and Travis Snider, hold down the corners. Starling Marte is unproven as well, but will most likely be the starting left fielder. With the addition of Sands, there may be another trade involving one of the players sooner than later.

The second Red Sox prospect named was pitcher Stolmy Pimentel. The 22 year old righty hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2009 when he was in A-ball. He was 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA in 2012 with the Class AA Portland Sea Dogs.

The third trade chip is 27 year old reliever Mark Melancon. He was dealt to the Red Sox from Houston last offseason for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland. Melancon was solid in the closer role for the Astros in 2011, posting a 2.78 ERA and 20 saves. He struggled last season in Boston in 41 appearances. Despite a rocky 2012, he is the most intriguing player in this deal that is coming to Pittsburgh. Switching back to the NL Central should help Melancon, and he’ll likely be a key piece of the bullpen. Some insight from Peter Gammons:

The fourth and final player coming from Boston is 25 year old infielder Ivan De Jesus. He went to the Sox with Sands last year in the mega-deal. De Jesus is a career .298 hitter in the minors; he’s hit just .205 in 48 big league games. He will not be included on the Pirates 40-man roster.

The other player leaving the Pirates in the deal is Brock Holt. Holt, 24, soared through the minors last season and earned a call-up after hitting .432 in 24 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. In 24 MLB games, he hit .292 (19 for 65) and potentially earned the right to battle for a backup infield job in 2013. Catching prospect Tony Sanchez is sad to see Holt go:

With the departure of Hanrahan, the Bucco bullpen is up in the air. As of now, Jason Grilli seems to be the only true veteran in the ‘pen. Mark Melancon has experience in the bigs. Jared Hughes and Tony Watson will be in there as well. After that? Who knows, but we expect a combination of young players, and maybe Vin Mazzaro (who is out of minor league options). The bullpen could either be solid or a total mess next year; it’s really too early to tell.

The Pirates haven’t stood pat this offseason, whether the fans like it or not. First, they gave $17 million to a decent catcher that could be a total flop. Then they gave a 36 year old reliever, who struggled down the stretch, nearly $7 million. They are taking a huge gamble of almost $13 million on inconsistent Francisco Liriano. Now they’ve dealt their closer for salary relief and a few unproven players. As we mentioned earlier, another outfielder or first baseman (maybe Jones?) could be on the way out. All of these moves are pretty risky, and could definitely put some jobs on the line in the front office. If/when Neal Huntington is fired, there could potentially be some moves to point to.

Andrew McCutchen was slightly confused when word got out on Saturday:

… then tweeted a cover-up:

… but ultimately wished Hammer well:

Tony Sanchez:

Neil Walker:

Best of luck to Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt in Boston.

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2012 AL East Preview

Baltimore Orioles

2011 Recap – The O’s ended 2011 with a 69-93 record, in the basement of the AL East.  The lone bright spots were Matt Wieters and Adam Jones, both young players who hit in the middle of the lineup.  In the rotation, the Orioles were pretty bad, with no one having an ERA under 4.60.  It was overall an ugly year for Baltimore.

Offseason RecapJason Hammel and Brian Matusz were brought in to make the rotation better, and Matt Lindstrom was signed to sure up the bullpen.  Wilson Betemit was signed to be a utility infielder and DH, while speedy Endy Chavez was signed to be a fourth outfielder and pinch runner.

2012 Outlook – Even with the moves the team made this offseason, they didn’t get much better.  Their lineup has a few pieces set in place, like Nick Markakis, Jones, Wieters, Mark Reynolds, and J.J Hardy, but they all have been pretty inconsistent.  Their rotation is a huge question mark, with no real ace.  Zach Britton will likely top the rotation, with Jake Arrieta, rookie Wei-Yin Chen, Hammel, and Matusz to follow him.  Jim Johnson will close out games.  It looks like the Orioles will yet again be the bottom team in the AL East.

Manager – Buck Showalter
General Manager – Dan Duquette

Boston Red Sox

2011 Recap – There’s no need to rub the Red Sox historic collapse in their faces anymore, but we will.  The Sox had a nine game lead over the Rays in the Wild Card, and blew it on the last day of the season.  Their record of 90-72 was just one game short, even though it looked like they had a playoff spot locked up all year.  Part of the reason for not making the playoffs could be that Carl Crawford had career lows in just about every stat, and he was expected to be a huge producer.  Despite the collapse, there were a handful of players that had great years.  David Ortiz hit .309, Dustin Pedroia hit .307, and Jacoby Ellsbury had a career year, hitting .321 with 32 homers and 105 RBI.  Adrian Gonzalez also stepped up big time in his first year with the BoSox, hitting .338 with 117 RBI.  Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Erik Bedard all pitched well, despite a few trips each to the DL.

Offseason Recap – With the loss of Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey to replace him.  Mark Melancon is also a new addition that will be at the back of the bullpen.  Part of the trade for Bailey included losing Josh Reddick, but also acquiring Ryan Sweeney.  With empty spots on the bench, the Sox signed Cody Ross and utility infielder Nick Punto.

2012 Outlook – The lineup for the Red Sox should look something like this: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Ortiz, Crawford, Mike Aviles, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Sweeney.  They won’t have any trouble putting up huge run totals even if they only perform at half of what they’re all capable of doing.  The big concern will be the rotation.  Sure Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, and Daniel Bard are all great pitchers, but the key will be keeping them healthy and getting them to pitch well all together.  If the rotation could at least keep the team in games, the offense should be able to pick them up and win 90+.

Manager – Bobby Valentine
General Manager – Ben Cherington

New York Yankees

2011 Recap – 2011 was yet another playoff year for the Bronx Bombers, who went 97-65, only to lose the Detroit in the ALDS.  Up and down the lineup, everyone had very good numbers, especially Robinson Cano, who had 118 RBI, and Curtis Granderson, who had 41 homers and 119 RBI.  Future HoF shortstop Derek Jeter, collected his 3000th career hit in July, while Alex Rodriguez continued to push towards 700 homers and 3000 hits.  CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova both had great seasons on the mound, while Mariano Rivera had another impressive season, with 44 saves.

Offseason Recap –  Veteran lefty Raul Ibanez was signed to be a DH against righties, and Eric Chavez was also resigned to fill a similar role.  The Yankees greatly improved their starting staff, signing Andy Pettitte out of retirement, and veteran Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.  Towards the beginning of the offseason, the Mariners and Yankees completed a trade that sent rookie stud Michael Pineda to New York and Jesus Montero to Seattle.

2012 Outlook – Even with an aging lineup, the Yankees are sure to make another run at the World Series.  The pitching staff is even better than it was last year, and will feature Sabathia, Nova, Pineda, Kuroda, and Pettitte, with Rivera heading into his age 42 year as the closer.  Robinson Cano will continue to prove that he’s the best second baseman in the league, while Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson help him hit bombs out of New Yankee Stadium.  Even with such a great lineup and staff, this may be one of the last years for the Yankees to keep their core group of players together, with everyone getting up there in years.

Manager – Joe Girardi
General Manager – Brian Cashman

Tampa Bay Rays

2011 Recap – The most historic and exciting day of regular season baseball was capped off with the Rays storming back from both a huge deficit in the Wild Card standings, and a 7-0 Yankees.  Even though they finished with a 91-71 record and a Wild Card birth, it looked like the Rays had no chance at all to make the playoffs in late August.  James Shields carried the staff through the season with 16 wins, while Evan Longoria put the rest of the team on his back all year, including his walk off homer that sent the Rays to the playoffs.

Offseason Recap – Two major moves were made this offseason, both helping out the offense.  Carlos Pena signed with the Rays after leaving for one year, and Luke Scott was signed to be the DH.  Veteran Jose Molina was also signed to be a solid backstop.  Outfielders Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton had a nasty collision in Spring Training, and  both of their health situations going into the season are questionable.

2012 Outlook –  With a rotation of Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Nieman, and rookie Matt Moore, the Rays could possibly have the best starting staff in the AL top to bottom.  As if that wasn’t enough, the lineup will have speedsters Jennings and Upton at the top, with Longoria, Pena, Ben Zobrist, and Matt Joyce to drive in runs.  The offensive additions made in the offseason will really help give even more run support to the great starting staff, which will win them more games than last year.

Manager – Joe Maddon
General Manager – Andrew Friedman

Toronto Blue Jays

2011 Recap – Going into every year, Blue Jays fans know that it will be a a huge challenge for them to compete in the AL East.  The Jays finished an even 81-81 in 2011, which would normally put them in second or third in a division.  But playing in the hardest division in baseball, the Jays could only finish in fourth.  Jose Bautista had yet another great season, slugging .603 with 43 bombs, while Ricky Romero had a 2.92 ERA, leading the pitching staff.  We also saw the emergence of rookie third bagger Brett Lawrie, who hit .293 in his short time with the big league club.

Offseason Recap – The lineup and starting staff will remain exactly the same as they were in 2011, with the only moves in the offseason being improvements to the back of the bullpen.  Francisco Cordero was signed, while the Jays traded for Sergio Santos.

2012 Outlook – With almost the exact same roster as 2011, the Blue Jays can expect a very similar season.  And unfortunately for them, getting above .500 doesn’t necessarily mean that they will reach the playoffs.  The rotation should put up average numbers just like last year, with mid-three ERAs and records around .500.  Jose Bautista should put up monster numbers again, leading the offense along with Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, and Yunel Escobar.

Manager – John Farrell
General Manager – Alex Anthopoulos

Projected Standings
1. Yankees
2. Rays
3. Red Sox
4. Blue Jays
5. Orioles

Pirates Player Profile: Erik Bedard

Erik Bedard
Age: 32
Birth Place: Navan, Canada
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 200 lbs.
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Career Stats:

(FanGraphs)

2012 Projections:

(FanGraphs)

Canadian-born southpaw Erik Bedard was drafted in the 6th round of the 1999 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He made his major league debut in April of 2002, and stuck with the Orioles for four seasons. In February of 2008, Bedard was sent to Seattle in a deal that included Adam Jones and George Sherrill. At last season’s trade deadline, he was shipped to the Boston Red Sox as part of a three team deal. The Pirates signed him this offseason to a 1 year, $4.5MM contract.

Bedard features a low-90s fastball, a change, and a curveball which he heavily relies on. Bedard’s main problem is staying healthy and reliable for the entire season. He made 33 starts in 2006, which is the only year Bedard has been able to stay in the rotation for the entire season. His best season came in 2007 when he went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA for the O’s. He lost his chance at a Cy Young that season when he was shut down with an oblique strain in August. Bedard pitched decently for the Mariners from 2008-2011, but was again plagued with injuries. His injuries included shoulder problems, a torn labrum, knee strains, and lat strains. Late last season, Bedard pitched well for the Sox until he got hurt in September, leaving him with mediocre stats for his few days in Boston.

The Pirates picked up Bedard for a pretty good price, considering he didn’t have arm trouble in 2011 and there weren’t many lefty options in the free agent market. Obviously, there is concern since he is so injury prone. It shouldn’t be too big of a problem if he flames out because we signed him for a decent price. However, if Bedard stays healthy and pitches well, he could easily emerge as the ace of the Pirates staff. He has good stuff and will be the first Pirates starter in a while that can actually strike batters out, instead of relying on the defense. We named Bedard a “player to watch” in 2012, and we’re excited to see how he does. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and contribute to the Buccos rotation.

Go Bucs