Sports

Red Sox close in on acquiring Hanrahan from Pirates

Joel Hanrahan established himself as one of the National League’s best closers the past two years with the Pirates.
Joel Hanrahan established himself as one of the National League’s best closers the past two years with the Pirates. Credit: keith srakocic/associated press

In retrospect, it hasn’t been easy to replace Jonathan Papelbon, who left the Red Sox before the 2012 season and signed a lucrative four-year, $50 million deal with Philadelphia.

The Red Sox traded for Oakland’s Andrew Bailey, sending Josh Reddick to the A’s. Reddick had a super season for Oakland, hitting 32 homers and winning a Gold Glove in right field. But Bailey had thumb surgery during spring training and didn’t return until August. The Red Sox went with Alfredo Aceves in the role and he was up and down at best.

Bailey, 28, simply didn’t convince the Sox upon his return in August that he would be the closer of the future with a 7.04 ERA in 19 games. So the Red Sox, apparently not wanting to take any chances, moved closer Saturday to acquiring Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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Hanrahan earned $4.1 million last season and was eligible for arbitration. He can be a free agent after the 2013 season.

According to a major league source, the Sox are expected to receive Hanrahan in the deal, and would give up pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel and first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the Josh Beckett/Carl Crawford/Adrian Gonzalez blockbuster on Aug. 25.

But the trade was not yet official because of some possible additions on both sides.

The Red Sox have always coveted Hanrahan, whose 2012 wasn’t as good as his 2011 when he had 40 saves and had a WHIP of 1.049 with a 1.83 ERA. Hanrahan walked only 16 in 2011, but he walked 20 more batters in 2012 when he went 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.274 WHIP.

Hanrahan had some control issues and some of his 36 saves were of the heart-attack variety; he’d put runners on base and then wiggle out of the jam.

The Red Sox tried to get Hanrahan, who has a tremendous slider, before he was dealt from the Nationals to the Pirates in 2010.

The Dodgers were in the Hanrahan hunt for a while, but they dropped out Friday, leaving the Red Sox a clear path to the 31-year-old righthander.

The Pirates, who signed lefthander Francisco Liriano Thursday, originally had wanted a starting pitcher for Hanrahan. But after the Liriano acquisition, they were willing to look at other needs.

For the longest time, the Pirates targeted Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias. With Stephen Drew signed, it was thought the Red Sox would be receptive to dealing Iglesias, but they steered the Pirates toward Sands.

Still looking for pitching, the Pirates were told that Pimentel was one prospect they could get in the deal.

The Pirates had in 2008 tried to obtain the 22-year-old, whose career has hit a wall the last two seasons. But the Pirates feel Pimentel has excellent stuff and could emerge as the All-Star-caliber pitcher the Red Sox thought he could be.

The Boston bullpen is now quite crowded.

Hanrahan likely will be the closer. Bailey, Aceves, Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Daniel Bard, Mark Melancon, Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow, Franklin Morales, and Clayton Mortensen also will be options for manager John Farrell.

The Red Sox could deal Bailey in an effort to get back a lefthanded-hitting first baseman/outfielder.

The Red Sox seem to be stockpiling relievers, valuable assets at this time of the offseason when bullpens are being built.

Reaction from around baseball seemed to give the edge to the Red Sox, assuming the deal goes through.

“They got a top-of-the-line guy and gave up very little,” said one National League major league scout.

A National League GM said, “Boston did a great job with that one. They were able to get a top closer and gave up players who don’t figure into their plans.”

The Red Sox so far have been able to avoid giving up draft picks to sign free agents, and now with this deal would obtain a closer for expendable players.

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