The Rays Tank: Red Sox trade valuable pieces for a Closer

Mark Melancon - Jared Wickerham

Stop me if this sounds familiar.

That's right, Boston is shipping out closer Mark Melancon for one season of 31-year old Joel Hanrahan - a relief pitcher who seems rather broken.

Sure, Melancon self destructed in the first week of the season, but after his re-promotion to the show, the former Astros closer returned to form and K'd 40 while walking ten in 43 innings. Melancon is also under team control until 2017. Hanrahan is a free agent in 2014, and has been having control issues.

Last year, the Red Sox sent away Josh Reddick for the oft-injured Andrew Bailey (who got injured), and Jed Lowrie for Mark Melancon (who got demoted). The central players they gave up went on to have career seasons. The players they received combined for 60.1 innings and seven saves.

This year they are trading four years of a proven closer coming off a down year, for one year of a proven closer that walks a lot of batters and recently injured his hamstring and ankle - in a year they could easily place last in the AL East, again.

Is your head spinning yet?

Ben Buchanan, of our Red Sox affiliate Over the Monster, summed up my feelings pretty well:

...this deal still doesn't make much sense at all for the Red Sox.

Joel Hanrahan, for all that he has the reputation of a proven closer, is a relief pitcher with one year of team control left and likely $7 million coming to him, which would put the Red Sox right up against the CBT if they do indeed sign Mike Napoli for $13 million a year. That wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Hanrahan hadn't just had his worst season in terms of peripherals, putting up a 4.45 FIP/4.28 xFIP thanks to a staggering 5.43 BB/9.

While Hanrahan still managed to strike out 10 batters per nine innings of work, that's a number that could change in a hurry if hitters wise up to his sudden lack of control and start letting him hang himself with balls and walks. Back in 2009, when Hanrahan was last pitching this poorly (4.78 BB/9), he allowed a 4.78 ERA in 64 innings of work. And while the Red Sox say they think they can fix Hanrahan's mechanical issues, hearing that actually makes it worse, since it's clear they knew they were buying a broken product rather than one who maybe just had a noisy year.

That would all be fine if they weren't sending back so much. Mark Melancon alone is pretty much the equivalent of Hanrahan, and probably actually worth more. Even coming off a terrible season, he was actually more impressive than Hanrahan in terms of peripherals, finished strong, and has more team control with a much lower price tag.

But wait, there's more!

Pittsburg will also gain prospects! 1B/OF Jerry Sands (Boston's depth at first base, who batted .288/.362/.552 with 55 HR in 940 PA at AAA), infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. (Boston's depth for the rest of the infield, who batted .303/.355/.416 in 1,294 PA at AAA), and AA right-hander Stolmy Pimentel (former top ten prospect in Boston, now a lotto ticket).

In return, Boston gets Brock Holt, who is essentially De Jesus, but a year younger.

This is the same team that made their closer in waiting the No. 5 starter and made their No. 5 starter their closer after trading for Bailey and Melancon.

The logic escapes me, but please: Ben Cherington? Larry Lucchino?

Don't stop now.

LINKS

- The Hardball Times: Glenn DuPaul examines the myth of "going for broke," or increasing your payroll to win more games. The most successful example in recent history? Your 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, who increased their payroll 82.70%, and then won 31 more games and the American League pennant.

- Know Thy Enemy: The evil empire has signed Matt Diaz to a minor league deal worth $1.2MM with incentives up to $800K. Meanwhile, Boston is now in talks with Adam LaRoche, according to Ken Rosenthal - who also called the Melancon-Hanrahan trade a win-win.

- Fangraphs: David Laurila scored an interview with Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers, primarily discussing pitching and prospect development.

- Grantland: The Year in Eli Manning.

UPDATE

- ESPN has the new batting practice caps (h/t Ramedy), and the Rays will be sporting their sunburst logo on their hats for the first time next season!

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- I don't often link to football articles, but SB Nation's Chris B. Brown has an excellent long-form piece on the rising Pistol Offense in the NFL that is well worth your time.

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