Pittsburgh Pirates Trade History: Joel Hanrahan to Boston

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Editorial: It was five years ago today that the Pittsburgh Pirates traded all-star closer Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox.  Let’s take a look back at the trade.

Joel Hanrahan originally joined the Pittsburgh Pirates organization back in 2009.  The Bucs acquired him and Lastings Milledge from the Washington Nationals for outfielder Nyjer Morgan and left-handed reliever Sean Burnett. It was in 2011 when Hanrahan took over as the Pittsburgh Pirates closer.

The move turned out to be a great one for the Bucs.  The big right hander turned into one of the best closers in the National League.  He recorded 40 saves in 2011 and was selected to the all-star game.  Furthermore, he had posted a very impressive ERA of 1.86 that season.  He followed it up with another all-star season in 2012.  The Bucs closer posted a 2.72 ERA and claimed 36 saves.  The Pittsburgh Pirates also had a really strong season and looked destined to break their playoff drought in 2013.  Many fans figured Hanrahan would be an important part of the 2013 team.

The Trade

Instead of Hanrahan being the closer on a Pirates playoff team, the club completed a six player trade with the Boston Red Sox on December 26, 2012 with Hanrahan being the headliner in the trade.  The deal was rumored to be close for a week and many expected it to be completed after the Christmas Holiday.  It did not take long as the deal was completed before noon on the 26th.  Along with Hanrahan, the Pittsburgh Pirates were sending utility player Brock Holt to the Red Sox.  Many did not expect Holt to actually make more of an impact for the Sox than Hanrahan, but the former Bucs closer did not last long with the Red Sox.  He appeared in nine games and struggled mightily.  In just 7.1 innings, the power closer posted an ERA of 9.32 before it was announced that he needed Tommy John Surgery.  He would never make it back to the big leagues.

Coming back to the Bucs:

Meanwhile, the Pirates acquired four players in return for Hanrahan and Holt.  The list included minor league players Ivan De Jesus Jr., Jerry Sands, and Stolmy Pimentel. The only big league piece was Mark Melancon, who was coming off a 2012 season that saw him post an ERA north of 5.00.  The gamble on Melancon being the headliner paid off.  He became one of the best relievers in the National League, and quickly made people forget about the often erratic Hanrahan.

Melancon pitched across four seasons with the Pirates, and arguably was one of the top three relievers in the National League in those years.  He collected an ERA of 1.80 in 260.1 innings pitched.  He was not their closer right away, as Jason Grilli was next in line after Hanrahan.  However, he eventually took over in 2014 and collected 130 saves in his four seasons with the Bucs.

Next: More Cole Updates

The other three players in the trade never amounted to much, and they never were supposed to. Pimentel had the highest ceiling of the three, but because of roster reasons he was rushed to the majors, and he never figured it out at the big league level.  Many were surprised that the Bucs did not get any top prospects back for Hanrahan.  It was later reported that the Red Sox did have concerns about Hanrahan’s elbow.  Still, the Red Sox have gotten some productive season out of Brock Holt.  Of course, the trade ended up working out a lot more for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Melancon was a big part of the three year playoff run by the Bucs, and he netted them current closer Felipe Rivero, who might be the best of them all.