In case you somehow missed it, Joel Hanrahan was traded to the Boston Red Sox, along with Brock Holt, for Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, Jerry Sands, and Ivan De Jesus.
I’m not sure where I stand on this trade yet. To get a clearer picture of it I am going to write about each player individually and, after that, judge the trade. I already looked at Mark Melancon. This article will examine Joel Hanrahan.
I wrote about my concerns regarding Hanrahan in mid-summer. My main concern was that while he was still effective (per ERA) he had become a completely different pitcher than he was when he was dominant in 2011. He had lost velocity on his fastball and gained velocity on his slider. His strand rate, at the time, was around 95%, which was clearly unsustainable. His fly ball rate had gone from 28.6% to 50.7%. He was walking everybody. If you looked at the stat line, it looked like it came from somebody else. It wasn’t that Hanrahan was having a bad year; he wasn’t Hanrahan. These problems are all still relevant.
The word out of Boston is that the Red Sox management team thinks that leg injuries and working in non-save situations were the causes of Hanrahan’s struggles. As for the leg injuries, I doubt that the injuries lasted all year, and the problems that I mentioned were present all year. Also, I really don’t put much stock in closer’s getting worse in non-save situations. Granted, in low leverage situations, Hanrahan did have the highest wOBA against, at .319. In high leverage situations, which you would expect him to lock down as an “experienced closer,” however, he posted a .295 wOBA against, which is not wildly different. These explanations are unsatisfactory.
It boils down to this: I don’t trust Joel Hanrahan to stay healthy and continue to be a dominant closer. Too many warning signs exist. This is exacerbated by the track record of relief pitchers’ poor health and volatility. Could Joel Hanrahan stay in strong form and be worth well more than $7 million? Absolutely. Could he collapse and be worth less than nothing? Absolutely. Joel Hanrahan is high risk and high reward at this point.
I can’t finish this article without saying this: I loved watching Joel Hanrahan. 2011 Joel Hanrahan may always be one of my favorite baseball memories. His slider is etched into my memory. May your arm never fail you Joel. I just wish that I was sure that it wouldn’t.