We're rolling up to the 18-hour milestone in the extended saga that's been the Joel Hanrahan trade, and we still don't know the full details of the trade. This is what we think we probably might know at this point:
- Joel Hanrahan will go to the Red Sox, along with another unnamed Pirate or Pirate prospect.
- Stolmy Pimentel and Jerry Sands will come to the Pirates.
- Mark Melancon may come to the Pirates, as well.
- There are four players coming to the Pirates in total.
- The deal isn't actually finalized, so probably every single bit of this is subject to change.
Because of the way this deal is unfolding, it was pretty easy to get a bad taste in your mouth for what seemed to be the basics of the trade yesterday: Pimentel and Sands seem like pretty typical Neal Huntington Warm Bodies. They're both guys that have some upside but that also seem pretty one dimensional and are probably unlikely to be more than role players at the big league level. Melancon, well, if he was any good why would the Red Sox need Hanrahan?
Here's the thing, though: Melancon had a 6.20 ERA last year because he gave up eight homers and 31 runs in 45 innings. He gave up five homers and nine runs in his first two. From June 11 onwards (after returning from his demotion to Triple-A), he struck out 40, walked ten, and allowed three homers in 43 innings. He hit rough patches in July and August, but was pretty spectacular in June and September. As in the past, he was very good against righties and bad against lefties, but for some reason Bobby Valentine let him face 87 lefties. He's got a heavy fastball that gets a lot of groundballs (50% groundball rate last year, 56.7% in his good year with the Astros) and that averaged a career high 93.3 mph last year.
This is not to suggest that Melancon is as good as or better than Hanrahan is right now, only that there is a good pitcher lurking beneath those ugly numbers and that he has good talents for a reliever and that maybe he's similar to the Joel Hanrahan the Pirates traded for in 2007. We can't know that for sure, of course, and like everything the Pirates do it involves some risk. Everyone hoped that the Pirates would be able to flip Hanrahan for a difference-making starting pitcher or a young shortstop that could finally fill the gap that the Piirates have had there for years, but if they can swap one year of Hanrahan for five years of a solid reliever, plus some other players with upside? That might not be a great trade, but I don't think it would be a bad one, either.
Of course there are more questions about and facets to this deal than simply one year of Hanrahan for five years of Melancon, but if Melancon is indeed included in this trade (and we don't know that he is for sure, though it seems like a safe bet that the Pirates will get at least one bullpen arm from Boston in the final trade, whatever form it takes) it changes the way that I look at it quite a bit.