|Why Red Sox are interested in Joel Hanrahan, but not Rafael Soriano||12.22.12 at 8:56 am ET|
Opportunity might be knocking for the Red Sox.
If the Red Sox’ interest in Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan was born out of desperation to upgrade their closers role, you would have been hearing Rafael Soriano’s name connected with the team by now. But according to a baseball source, the Sox haven’t discussed making a play at the free agent reliever.
Sure, there is the issue of surrendering a draft pick if Soriano is signed (since the Yankees offered the righty a qualifying offer) — a notion that seems to be scaring teams away. But with the success of the 33-year-old in the American League East, if there was over-the-top anxiety about finding somebody to finish off games for the Sox, a conversation might at least be started regarding to short-term deal for Soriano.
So why are the Red Sox interested in Hanrahan?
The Pirates are fielding offers for the 31-year-old, although a source tells WEEI.com Alex Speier that asking for the likes of Felix Doubront would be a conversation-killer. Hanrahan made $4.1 million in 2012, and will be eligible to become a free agent after the 2013 season, opening the door for Pittsburgh’s willingness to talk.
It is the second straight offseason Pirates general manager Neil Huntington has at least entertained the idea of dealing his closer.
‘Obviously, we’d love Joel to be in a Pirate uniform as long as it can possibly happen. There’s a number of factors that go into that. We’ve got to weigh each one accordingly,’ Huntington told WEEI.com last November. ‘We recognize where our window is. We also recognize that we’re not going to be able to keep everybody in Pittsburgh, in a Pirate uniform, for the duration of their career.
‘If there’s a deal out there that makes sense, we need to be open to it. That said, we’re not going to look to move him, but if somebody comes in and can fill multiple pieces for us or can fill a hole longer term for us, regardless of who it is — take the name off the back of the jersey — we always have to be willing to think about how we fill multiple pieces to be a better team for longer.’
The Red Sox simply view this as an opportunity to take advantage of the market while dealing from a position of semi-strength, and not flat-out desperation. They still have a closer in Andrew Bailey, and another reliever who has previously closed in Koji Uehara who could serve as a serviceable backup plan. And there would seem to be depth beyond Uehara, with Junichi Tazawa, Alfredo Aceves, Mark Melancon, Franklin Morales and Daniel Bard (assuming he bounces back).
But one could make a case that Hanrahan’s a next-level kind of guy. Soriano without the price tag.
Hanrahan hasn’t changed all that much since he introduced himself to the Red Sox in 2011, when 27 of his 34 pitches thrown over two appearances were clocked at 97 mph or better. According to MLBAnalytics.org, he hit at least 96 mph on nearly half of his pitches in ’12, a rate that didn’t drop off in the second half (hitting 98 mph 19 times in September).
His numbers would have been relatively the same as previous seasons, as well, if not for two bumpy September outings. Hanrahan still ended up holding hitters to a batting average of .187 while finishing with a 2.72 ERA, striking out 67 in 59 2/3 innings.
Any concern revolved around the closer’s increased walk total, which jumped up to 36, 20 more than the year before. Some in baseball worry about possible arm issues, while others will temper any concern by pointing out that the majority of Hanrahan’s wildness came in the season’s final month, when appearances were spotty due to the Pirates’ late-season struggles.
If Bailey is healthy, the Red Sox could certainly live without Hanrahan. But lessons should be learned regarding the importance of making certain the end of your bullpen is top-notch. An argument could be made that if the Brewers (29 blown saves), Angels (22), White Sox (20) and Dodgers (19) had better game-enders they would have been playing in the playoffs.
And it is no coincidence that since 2005, only one World Series winner (’06 Cardinals) hasn’t found a way to total at least 45 saves. The Giants‘ last two title teams have collected 53 and 57 saves, respectively. The Red Sox? They went 35 of 57 in save opportunities last season. Again, it’s why if not for the cost of the draft pick, going after Soriano would make arguably as much sense as any of the Sox’ other $13 million acquisitions.
Add it all up and it’s why Hanrahan has now entered the conversation.
|Peter Gammons on M&M: Some red flags with Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano||04.06.11 at 2:56 pm ET|
Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday afternoon to talk about the slow-starting Red Sox. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
“They just haven’t had anybody get off to a particularly good start,” Gammons said. “Again, it’s only four games. It is amazing, that statistic that nobody’s ever won the World Series starting 0-4.”
Gammons said the Red Sox didn’t seem as energized when he saw them in Florida, but they were not alone in lacking intensity coming out of spring training.
“Except for the teams that had a lot of competition for positions, it just seemed as if everybody was bored by the 10th or 15th of March this year,” Gammons said. “The Red Sox basically had no jobs open for positions players. It just seemed like spring training mode. What have they won, like two games since March 13 or something? It just seemed a little muted. It didn’t upset me that [Jon] Lester and [Daniel] Bard both seemed a little out of whack, but I think sometimes that does happen to teams, where they have trouble getting going.”
Added Gammons: “It’s not the end of the world, but at the same time, you kind of go: All right, it can’t go too long because they play the Yankees, the Rays and the Jays in the first week-and-a-half of the season at home.”
Gammons said the Sox hitters deviated from the team’s strategy of showing patience and instead started consistently swinging at the first strike Tuesday night in Cleveland. And new outfielder Carl Crawford “is pressing dramatically. I’m not really sure why it’s happening.”
As for Crawford being moved around in the batting order, Gammons predicts he’ll eventually settle into third. “I think Terry [Francona] first and foremost is trying to get Carl comfortable,” Gammons said. “Just, ‘Please, you’re not here to carry the team. You’re here to just be what you’ve been in your major league career, which is a great player. He was out jumping at everything in Texas, and that sort of carried over last night.”
|Picking a winner? A look at the draft picks gained and lost by the Red Sox||01.16.11 at 8:14 am ET|
It was not long ago that teams signed free agents without regard for the draft pick they would have to sacrifice to do so. Clearly, that has changed.
Indeed, the pick that a team must sacrifice to sign a Type A free agent who rejects salary arbitration from his former club has become so significant that it reportedly became the subject of significant contention in the Yankees organization. Earlier this month, New York GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees — after being spurned by Cliff Lee — wouldn’t sign a Type A free agent because they were unwilling to sacrifice their first-round pick. But he was reportedly overruled at the ownership level, resulting in the decision to give up the No. 31 overall selection and sign Rafael Soriano as the most expensive setup man in history.
Just how valuable is the No. 31 overall pick? The answer varies significantly by year.
In 46 June drafts, just 15 players taken at the No. 31 spot have reached the majors. (For the complete list, click here.) Only two of them emerged as above-average players. One was Jarrod Washburn, who won 107 games after being taken by the Angels in 1995. The other? Greg Maddux, whose 355 career wins are the most by a right-hander whose career started after the World War…World War I, that is.
The Red Sox‘ free-agent activity resulted in their losing their own first-round pick (No. 24 overall) while gaining two (Nos. 19 and 26). Under GM Theo Epstein, the Sox have used compensation draft picks to acquire a number of their key prospects. (For details, click here.)
But historically, what kind of players have been selected with the first-round picks gained and sacrificed by the Sox this winter? Here is a look at the history of the three first-round draft picks that were affected by the Red Sox’ free agent activity this offseason:
|Was Brian Cashman on board with Yankees signing Rafael Soriano?||01.14.11 at 3:49 pm ET|
Buster Olney of ESPN.com suggested (via twitter) that the Yankees‘ decision to sign reliever Rafael Soriano to a three-year, $35 million was driven more by ownership than by New York’s baseball operations department. And based on what Brian Cashman has said about his beliefs in bullpen construction in the past, it is not hard to fathom that he might have been uncomfortable with the idea of handing out the fifth-largest average annual value ($11.67 million) ever conferred upon a reliever — and for a pitcher who will not even be asked to handle the ninth inning for the Yankees, who have a certain Mariano Rivera on the roster (at $15 million per year for the 2011 and 2012 seasons) as a closer.
In spring training, Cashman talked about the first long-term deal to which the Yankees signed Rivera. After having gone to arbitration in 2000 (with Rivera “losing” when an arbitrator sided with the Yankees in granting the closer a $7.25 million salary), the two sides avoided a repeat of that forum in Feb. 2001. Rivera and the Yankees agreed to a four-year, $39.99 million deal, the first of four multi-year deals to which Cashman has now signed the future Hall of Famer.
Cashman was asked whether, in 2001, he had any reservations about Rivera’s ability to remain healthy or consistent in his performance given the widely held view that relief performance is extremely volatile on a year-to-year basis. His explanation touched on how he envisioned building bullpens and, indirectly, why a signing such as the reported deal with Soriano might run counter to Cashman’s philosophy.
“Back then, the evolution of the game, the knowledge of the volatility of relievers didn’t exist then. There wasn’t the evidence of the ups and downs that had been studied to the point that I can remember thinking about it back then. Back then, if you had a good arm, had success, give him a multi-year contract and he should continue doing well,” Cashman explained. “Versus now, you’re a lot more hesitant. How I go about building my bullpens, I’m essentially pulling guys. You draft guys with good arms, if they fail as a starter you throw them in the ‘pen. You know what? You’d be surprised how it can work out for you.”
There was a time when the Yankees invested heavily in middle relievers. They shocked the industry with a four-year, $22.25 million deal for Steve Karsay from 2002-05. They gave Kyle Farnsworth $17 million for three years from 2006-08.
But in recent years, Cashman had made a point of building more economical bullpens, something he mentioned before the 2010 season.
“I’ve had a pretty cheap bullpen the last few years to set up Mariano. A couple years ago, we had Edwar Ramirez and [Jose] Veras. [In 2009], we had [Dave] Robertson and [Joba] Chamberlain. We had Phil Hughes,” he said. “We don’t have, like we used to, the Karsay, the Farnsworth contracts, the Paul Quantrills where you go out and get them to sign for three- or four-year reliever contracts, because it’s volatile.”
Now, however, the Yankees have a new reliever under contract for up to three years — unless, according to reports, Soriano exercises his right to opt-out of the deal after either 2011 or 2012. It is a deal in which the Yankees are getting a pitcher who, over the last two years, has been undeniably one of the best in the game, one who led the A.L. in saves and had a sub-2.00 ERA in 2010 despite pitching in a division of relentless lineups.
Even so, it represents a clear departure from the way in which the Yankees had been building bullpens in the past, and the way in which Cashman suggested he wanted to build bullpens.
|Brian Cashman says Yankees won’t pursue Rafael Soriano||01.07.11 at 2:37 pm ET|
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the Journal News that his team would not be willing to sacrifice its 2011 first-round pick to sign any of the free agents who remain on the market. With Adrian Beltre having signed with the Rangers and Carl Pavano reportedly close to an agreement to return to the Twins, the only two remaining Type A free agents (who would require a signing team to sacrifice a pick) are a pair of relievers who spent 2010 with the Rays: Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour.
Some reports had suggested that the Yankees could pursue Soriano as a setup man. Agent Scott Boras told ESPN.com earlier in the week that Soriano — who led the AL in saves in 2010 — would be willing to set up in New York.
But while Soriano may have been willing to entertain such a notion, Cashman essentially ruled it out by stating that the Yankees would not part with the pick needed to sign the right-hander.
“I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,’ Cashman is quoted as saying. ‘I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.’
The Yankees have been fairly quiet this offseason since Lee turned down New York’s offers to sign with the Phillies. Cashman re-signed shortstop Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera, and he has signed left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano and catcher Russell Martin.
But the Yankees have not reached any deals for the cream of this year’s free agent crop. Still, Cashman suggested that it was premature to panic about the 2010 AL wild card winners.
‘We’re going to show up in Tampa, and we’re going to have a team that we’re proud of,’ Cashman told the Journal News.
|Report: Rangers to pass on Rafael Soriano, boding well for Red Sox draft||01.06.11 at 12:30 pm ET|
According to FoxSports.com, the Rangers won’t pursue free agent closer Rafael Soriano this offseason. The team’s agreement with Adrian Beltre on a six-year, $96 million deal represented its run prevention upgrade. Soriano, meanwhile, “isn’t a target of the Rangers right now,” according to the report.
That is potentially good news for the Red Sox, since Soriano is the only remaining Type A free agent on the market who received a higher ranking from the Elias Sports Bureau than Beltre. As such, if the Rangers sign Soriano, Texas’ first-round pick would go to the Rays as compensation for the loss of Soriano, with the Sox getting the Rangers’ second-round pick, around the No. 80-85 pick in the draft.
But, so long as Soriano lands somewhere other than Texas, the Sox will get the Rangers’ top pick, the No. 26 overall selection in a draft that is considered to feature exceptional depth of potential impact players, particularly in terms of the quality of college pitchers.
There are still three unsigned Type A free agents who are unsigned: Soriano, Carl Pavano and Grant Balfour. But Beltre had a higher Elias rating than either Pavano or Balfour, according to this list compiled by MLBTradeRumors.com.
The Sox are also currently positioned to receive the first-round pick from the Tigers (No. 19 overall) thanks to Detroit’s signing of free agent Victor Martinez. Though Detroit has not been connected to Soriano this offseason, Soriano was also rated higher in the Elias ratings than Beltre, meaning that if the Tigers signed the 2010 AL leader in saves, their first-round selection would go to the Rays, with their second-rounder going to the Sox.
|Rumors: Soriano to Rays||12.10.09 at 12:17 pm ET|
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