Trading For A Closer

This article from a few weeks back becomes relevant as the Rays’ free agent options for closers are completely dried up. The Pirates are blessed with two very good end game relievers: Joel Hanrahan and former Devil Rays prospect Evan Meek. Both could close, and both have closed. But, heading into 2011, Pirates management wants to make a quick decision on the situtation.

We have talked in generalities of choosing one or the other for those specific roles. We have talked in generalities of using both. Clint and I need to spend some more time, in the future, talking about this because I know both guys, Evan and Joel, are hungry to pitch.”

Huntington solidified one thing, though.

“This is not something that we have to answer right now, but this is something that we want to have an answer to before spring training,” he said. We won’t have a competition for the closer … during spring training. Whoever is our closer, is our closer.”

It would be wonderful if the Rays could help the Pirates make that decision easier by taking one of the pitchers in a trade, and that duo, along with the Royals’ Joakim Soria seem to be the most logical trade targets for the Rays if they were to trade for a closer.

Soria would be the clear cut choice for the team but his attainability might be the toughest since the club reportedly turned down the Yankees’ offer of uber-prospect Jesus Montero for Soria some time during the 2010 season. The addition of either Hanrahan or Meek would put that pitcher as the clear favorite to close on the Rays but the addition of impact relievers via trade in February and March has historically been a very dry market.

Here are the relievers that have been acquired via trade during those months in recent years:

  1. Dana Eveland (2010) – no impact
  2. Michael Wuertz (2009)  – monster season for Athletics worth 2.4 fWAR
  3. Dustin Nippert (2008) – negligible impact on Rangers
  4. Jason Bulger (2006) – no impact
  5. Casey Fossum (2005) – started in the pen for Devil Rays, moved to rotation in May; worth 1.7 fWAR
  6. Jorge Sosa (2005) – Similar role as Fossum for the Braves; worth 1.1 fWAR

That’s not a very rich list over the past six seasons outside of Wuertz. Here is the work of the two Pirates over the past three seasons compared to what Wuertz has done in that same time frame.

PITCHER IP FIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 K/9
Hanrahan 218 3.25 8.4 0.7 4.2 10.9
Wuertz 163 3.63 7.2 0.9 3.5 9.5
Meek 140 4.30 6.3 0.6 4.6 7.7

The Rays can continue to explore the open market but recent history is against them finding something of significant value over these next two months to help in the bullpen. Most of the arms traded this time of year are the pitchers that are out of options and cannot be sent down to minor league camp. If it were a matter of costs, the pitcher would have already been traded as was the case with Rafael Soriano and the Braves last season.

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
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3 Responses to Trading For A Closer

  1. I.Welsh-Art says:

    It’d be nice to be able to get Meek. I remember watching a few Pirates games this summer when I was in Pittsburgh and watched him a few times. A common element I saw with those games was he did absolutely everything he could, but their infield is HORRIBLE! Passed balls by the second and shortstop, the catcher dropped a simple pop up and their first baseman couldn’t stop a ball if his life depended on it. I could only imagine his numbers getting better on a team that actually wins. He has some good numbers, albeit some of his undesirable statistics could be blamed on his POS team. They could probably get him on the low end too seeing as how Pittsburgh can’t/won’t keep anyone.

    • I remember when Meek was closing games for the AA Rays in 2007. Rays traded Russell Branyan to get Meek in 2006 and then exposed him to the Rule V draft the next season and the Pirates took him. Oops

  2. budman3 says:

    With the acquisitions of Damon and Ramirez, it’s apparent that Friedman has laid claim that the Rays are intent on being there all season for a play-off run. That is something that few would have admitted to before those signings, IMO. But he is also someone who doesn’t leave loose ends and while I think he tried very hard to sign a closer type FA(Rauch, maybe Fuentes) that market has dried up, leaving only a trade if he is intent on adding that closer.

    The Pirates may be the only team that not only has two quality options but because they have little chance of competing this season, and have multiple needs over the next couple of seasons(when they should be targeting a competitive team), seem like a good match for the Rays.

    While the Rays are loaded with quality arm prospects and two potential SS prospects(Lee and Beckham) and it would be nice to continue to develop them for themselves, there comes a time that it may be beneficial to use them as chips to acquire the one last need I think this team needs to complete their roster and put them on equal with everything else the Sox, Yanks and maybe the Blue Jays have done this winter. With the plethora of draft choices this June, it could be the optimum time to make such a move. And frankly, I think it may not take as much more than one top 5-15 to acquire a guy like Hanrahan or Meek. Maybe even less if the Rays were to take on a salary dump like Doumit in a deal.

    The Pirates may very well want to wait until the deadline to trade away one of their closers thinking they could get more at that time but the Rays may look back and regret not seriously looking into such a deal now, if the closing situation turns out to be problematic and costs them valuable games in the first three months of the season.
    I just think AF may not be willing to take a chance that the season turns out like 2008 when the health of Percival forced Howell into the closers role and the Rays had a horrible time trying to define everyone else’s role in the pen and ultimately was a major reason they faded late in that season.

    While he has done a fine job in bringing in nice arms for the pen with the budget he has had to work with, and they appear to have talent and roles they can fill, the closer, the one guy that stabilizes all the others is still missing, IMO. I just have to believe he won’t leave that last stone unturned based on all else he has accomplished this winter.

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