The Red Sox, Hanrahan and “Stuff”

For a team that has historically made clear that they don’t think much of designated closers, the Red Sox acquire an awful lot of them. Occasionally the operative term is “awful.”

It’s not so much that they keep trading for closers simultaneously to making the point of not paying money for saves, it’s that last winter they acquired Andrew Bailey to be the “ace” out of the bullpen and Mark Melancon to back him up, but that they gave up “stuff” to get them and turned around a year later, giving up more “stuff” (including Melancon) to get Joel Hanrahan to replace Bailey. Eventually, that pile of “stuff” could wind up having been better used if the Red Sox had kept them (Josh Reddick) or used them in different trades to fill other holes.

The trade for Bailey was understandable. They needed to replace Jonathan Papelbon and Bailey wasn’t set to be a free agent until after 2014. In retrospect and considering the ancillary factors—the players they traded, the reluctance to waste a draft pick by signing a big name free agent, Bailey’s injury and Melancon’s failure—they would have been better off simply paying Papelbon. With Papelbon, at least they knew what they had and wouldn’t have gone through this level of histrionics to fill his underappreciated shoes.

The acquisition of Hanrahan is different from the one of Bailey in several ways. In this trade, they traded Jerry Sands, Ivan De Jesus Jr., Stolmy Pimentel and Melancon to the Pirates for Hanrahan and Brock Holt. They had acquired Sands and De Jesus Jr. in the August housecleaning that dispatched Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers and the club had no future plans for either of them, so trading them for Hanrahan makes sense.

Hanrahan doesn’t have the injury history that Bailey does and he’s a short-term solution with free agency on the horizon after 2013. If they’re struggling as a team and he pitches well, they can trade him at mid-season. Once he enters the free agent market, they can keep him for another year if he accepts their qualifying offer or they can get a draft pick when he signs elsewhere.

Teams are increasingly reluctant to surrender draft picks or overpay financially for “name” closers, but the Red Sox keep giving up assets to get them.

For all the talk of GM Ben Cherington now being in charge of the operation, evidenced by the hiring of “his” manager, John Farrell, and the flurry of “character” players he’s signing on short-term deals to improve a toxic clubhouse, he should not get a pass for 2012, nor should the disastrous product be labeled the sole responsibility of former manager Bobby Valentine. Valentine was a part of the problem, but not the problem. The same foundation of players from the 2012 club behaved as abhorrently as they did when the team collapsed in 2011 and forced the departures of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein.

Nothing’s been solved. They’re just making changes. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

The 2013 Red Sox are more palatable and are being credited for the new atmosphere, but in spite of media accolades they’re still not much better than they were and the talk that they’re returning to what built their championship clubs is inaccurate, because that’s not what they’re doing at all.

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  1. #1 by O'Brien on December 28, 2012 - 7:55 pm

    Paul

    “With Papelbon, at least they knew what they had and wouldn’t have gone through this level of histrionics to fill his underappreciated shoes.”

    Pap’s departure had little to do with him being unappreciated and we’ll never know if the Sox were willing to open the vault for him because he wanted out (emphasis) and signed immediately not allowing any opportunity to counter

    “The same foundation of players from the 2012 club behaved as abhorrently as they did when the team collapsed in 2011″

    This is true

    “For all the talk of GM Ben Cherington now being in charge of the operation he should not get a pass for 2012″

    Why not? Theo’s handwriting was all over the 2011 team that collapsed in September and this alone should have been cause enough enough to “force” his departure. Losing Beltre during his watch assured it. Theo was gone 5 days later but his “foundation” (Gonzalez, Beckett and Crawford) lingered into 2012 until Ben found an opportunity to offload them and their 250M.

    • #2 by admin on December 29, 2012 - 6:02 am

      With Papelbon, he knew the Red Sox didn’t want him back and that had he gone back with an offer, they weren’t going to match it. Maybe he did want to leave, but if so it was in large part because the Red Sox had never shown one iota of interest in locking him up long term, nor did they ever show respect for what he did. With the Phillies having gone to Papelbon after the messy way in which the offer to Ryan Madson was on the table/off the table, that wasn’t exactly smooth either. If the Red Sox had truly thought everything through, they wouldn’t have been so cavalier in letting Papelbon go without a peep as if his contribution was meaningless.
      I have a problem with giving Cherington a break for everything that happened in 2012. You’re right that Epstein was responsible for the 2011 team—I’ve written on it extensively—but the entire blame of 2012 has fallen on Bobby Valentine and Larry Lucchino when Cherington was right there in the middle of it as Theo’s assistant getting all those players in the first place and he was the GM for 2012 too. Considering the moves he’s made since he’s been in charge, specifically the obsession with John Farrell, and I’d be very concerned going forward.
      I wouldn’t have overpaid to keep Adrian Beltre either.

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