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 in Review: Infield

Solid play – both offensively and defensively – led to a dependable core of Bucco infielders.

The top seven infielders in 2012:

Games AVG HR RBI OPS
Garrett Jones 145 .274 27 86 .832
Neil Walker 129 .280 14 69 .768
Clint Barmes 144 .229 8 45 .593
Pedro Alvarez 149 .244 30 85 .784
Josh Harrison 104 .233 3 16 .624
Gaby Sanchez 50 .241 4 13 .720
Jordy Mercer 42 .210 1 5 .639

Other players that saw action in the infield: Matt Hague, Brock Holt, Yamaico Navarro, Jeff Clement, Chase d’Arnaud.

GI Jones definitely put up some strong numbers. His power helped keep the Bucs afloat whenever Cutch struggled, and his defense seemed to get better as he became the every-day first baseman. Neil put up some unreal numbers in June and July, and despite his season-ending injury in September, he still was one of the best second basemen in the league. His development over the past three years has really shown. He combined with Barmes to be a very strong tandem up the middle. Clint, despite some disappointing offensive numbers, was solid at shortstop. Many even thought he should have been up for a Gold Glove. His offensive struggles only seemed to be highlighted when the team struggled, which isn’t really fair to a shortstop who is more known for his defense. At the hot corner, Pedro had some major ups and downs. He displayed his cannon of an arm, but it sometimes resulted in the ball landing 15 rows up in the stands. At the plate, his streakiness really showed. There were times you couldn’t get a fastball by him, and there were times where he looked absolutely lost at the plate. Despite that, he still ended up with 30 bombs and 85 RBIs, and could very well be on his way to 35/100 seasons very soon. Gaby Sanchez was acquired at the trade deadline and showed some promise. He came in as the Pirates plummeted, so his numbers are hard to gauge. Harrison, Mercer, and the rest of the bench weren’t too great. Despite J-Hay’s and Jordy’s versatility, they can’t hit at all. The Pirates’ lack of infield depth really showed when Walker missed significant time in August and September.

Heredia, Spikes finish season strong

The State College Spikes, short-season A-ball affiliate of the Pirates, concluded their season on Wednesday night. One of the organization’s top pitching prospects, 18 year old Luis Heredia, pitched exceptional in the season finale. He threw five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits, against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers as the Spikes won, 5-0.

They went 35-41 overall, and won three of their last five games. Heredia finished with a 4-2 record and a 2.71 ERA in 14 starts. Other top performers for State College this season include outfielder Tyler Gaffney (.297 avg, 11 SB in 38 games), shortstop D.J. Crumlich (.292 avg, 29 RBI in 69 games), and pitcher Clay Holmes (2.28 ERA in 59.1 innings).

Brock Holt, who made his MLB debut this week, became the 16th Spike to play in the big leagues. Holt hit .299 with six homers and 33 RBI for the Spikes in 2009. The article states,

“Holt joins 2009 Spikes Pitcher of the Year Kyle McPherson, who made his Pirates debut on August 20, on the list of Spikes to take the “Road to the Show” from State College to the Major Leagues. 2006 Spikes David Carpenter, Allen Craig, Mark Hamilton, Brendan Ryan, Luke Gregerson, Jason Motte, Adam Ottavino, Donovan Solano and P.J. Walters have all seen Major League action since the Spikes’ debut season. The roll call of Spikes to the Majors also includes current and former Pirates Chase d’Arnaud (2008), Matt Hague (2008), Jordy Mercer (2008), Daniel Moskos (2007) and Tony Watson (2007).”

Go Bucs/Go Spikes

Player Profile: Brock Holt

Brock Holt
–  Age: 24
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 170
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
College: Rice

Honors/Awards
– 2009 NYP All-Star
(State College Spikes)
– 2010 FSL All-Star
(Bradenton Marauders)
– 2011 EAS All-Star
(Altoona Curve)
– 2012 EAS All-Star
(Altoona Curve)

From Pirates Prospects:
“…he’s never likely to hit for so much power as a pro.  The Pirates, consistent with their philosophy, will try to develop him as a shortstop.  Scouts, however, aren’t convinced he has the range and arm to stay there, in part due to his size.  He also doesn’t have a great arm.  He’s not exceptionally fast and hasn’t been a good base stealer in the minors.”

Brock Holt, who was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, made his MLB debut on Saturday. He collected his first hit and RBI on Sunday during his first big league start. Holt, who earned a promotion after ripping the cover off the ball at Indy, has two hits in five at-bats, as well as a walk and a run scored. Even though he isn’t the biggest player on the field, he’s hit at every level he’s played. However, it’s unclear if he is steady enough to be an every day player:

More from Giger’s article “Holt can hit, but faces tough road with Pirates“:

“There are several problems, though, with Holt ever getting an extended shot with the Pirates.

First, he doesn’t excel defensively at shortstop or second base. He’s got 18 errors in 79 games at short, and he lacks the range and arm strength to play there every day in the majors. The Pirates don’t have room for Holt at second base because Neil Walker likely isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Second, the Bucs already have a bunch of middle infielders ahead of Holt in their system, from Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer in the big leagues to Chase d’Arnaud, Yamaico Navarro and Anderson Hernandez in Triple-A.

Finally, Holt has very little power, with just two homers this season and 10 in 324 professional games. He does have 22 doubles and a very good .821 OPS this season, but he will never be known as much of a power threat.”

Locke, Wilson among September call-ups

The Pirates have recalled their first batch of September call-ups. Of the five players brought up, three have seen action this season (Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson, and Eric Fryer). Chris Leroux saw time in the big leagues in 2011, while Brock Holt will be making his MLB debut sometime soon. Here’s a look at the five players:

Jeff Locke
– 10-5 with a 2.48 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 24 starts for Indianapolis.
– No runs allowed in 4.1 innings for the Pirates.

Justin Wilson
– 9-6 with a 3.78 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 29 appearances for Indy.
– One scoreless inning of relief for the Bucs.

Chris Leroux
– 4-0 with a 3.11 ERA in 21 games for the Indians.
– 2.88 ERA, including 24 strikeouts, in 25 innings for Pittsburgh in 2011.

Eric Fryer
– .204 average with 10 RBI in 65 games for Indy.
– One hit in three at-bats for the Pirates this year.

Brock Holt
– .432 average and a 1.013 OPS in 24 games for Indianapolis.
– Definitely a surprise that Holt was recalled, but very deserving with how he was raking at Triple-A.

Go Bucs