In one of the worst kept secrets of the past week, the Red Sox and Pirates finally came to an agreement that ships closer Joel Hanrahan to the American League along with minor leaguer Brock Holt. In return the Pirates received Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, Ivan De Jesus, and Jerry Sands.
So in Beantown, the closer situation has become a bit more fluid with Andrew Bailey as a closer candidate as well as Hanrahan coming off two 35+ save seasons. Given that Bailey is coming off an injury plagued season, Hanrahan likely has a leg up on the competition. Hanrahan, however, does own a fairly colorful history in the command and control department including a 5.4 BB/9 performance in 2012. However, he does at least miss bats at a high rate (10.1 K/9) and throws a good mid-nineties fastball/slider combo. When healthy, Bailey induces the use of fewer Rolaids given a good history of command control (2.7 BB/9) for his career, but is not quite (though still solid) the bat-misser, Hanrahan is. Both pitchers, health willing, are capable of holding onto the job. Given, however, both pitchers shortcomings, it seems to make it almost imperative that someone wishing to own one of the two makes sure buy the other as a handcuff.
The Pirates closer role will now fall first to Jason Grilli. The former Giants’ first round pick has only gotten better with age. Now 36, Grilli established career highs in strikeouts with a 13.8 K/9 while showing some of the best control of his career (3.4 BB/9). Grilli, however, owns just 5 career saves and his 58.2 innings in 2012 was by far the most he’s pitched in a season since 2008 (75). Given the righty’s history, a high bid cannot be justifified.
Mark Melancon was supposed to have been a setup man and possible closer candidate for the Red Sox last year and ended up needing to go to Triple-A to get his game back together. There is room for optimism here despite a 6.20 ERA. Melancon managed an 8.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. His issues early on were due to command and resulted in a 22% HR/FB rate which knocked this dominant groundball pitcher’s numbers get rather out of whack. The soon to be 28-year old is likely to be an inexpensive end-game option, yet one who could end up being quite valuable.
The prospects involved in the deal are on the marginal side. Brock Holt is a left-handed hitting second basemen who earned a call-up to the Pirates in 2012. The lefty profiles best as Triple-A roster filler or a utility man who can make consistent contact, play adequate defense, and provide some gap power.
Ivan De Jesus was once considered the Dodgers shortstop of the future. However, like Holt, he is now seen as more of a utility player who could perhaps hit for average, but does bring much of anything to the table in terms of the power and speed department.
Jerry Sands is listed as an outfielder but is more ideally used as a first basemen or DH. The righty has legitimate 20-plus, if not 25-plus homerun power potential, a patient bat, and makes contact around 80% of the time. However, the Pirates appear to have all of the positions he plays locked up at the moment and it appears most likely that Sands will spend most of 2013 in Triple-A. Given more interleague interactions, it’s possible that Sands could see action in AL parks.
Stolmy Pimentel may be the key of the deal. He’s a big right-hander with an at times overpowering fastball, but the consistency of his secondary pitches have been the question mark. Since his pro debut in 2008, Pimentel’s K/9 has dipped and only saw an uptick this year to 6.7. I suspect if he makes the Majors, it will be as a reliever, but given that he is still only 22 and has no Triple-A experience, there is still some time on his side to get things together.
The Indians signed Nick Swisher to a four-year deal with a vesting option for a fifth. So, in theory, this deal should be the last multi-year contract of Swisher’s career, unless a team is willing to sign him to a multi-year contract when he is 37.
2005 was the former first round picks first full season in the Majors. He truly became an everyday player in 2006 after the A’s and since then the lefty has received no fewer than 588 plate appearances (2008) or played in fewer than 148 games. Swisher has also hit no fewer than 22 HRs since 2006 and his plate discipline numbers have fluctuated only nominally over that time with a career marks of 79% contact rates and 13% walk rates that remain very reasonable base lines going forward.
Swisher's yearly batting average on balls in play has fluctuated wildly, rendering a batting average that swings from .219 to .288 without a significant change in skill set. So that really is the only warning when considering Swisher as an option, keep your expectations on the .250 or so side of things and hope for more. The focus for his purchase should instead be on the consistent power skills and looking for help in the batting average department elsewhere.
Ross to Arizona
The Diamondbacks wanted a right-handed hitter with legitimate 20+ homerun power. Ross provides that and an aggressive approach that includes a mediocre ability to get on base (.324 life time OBP) and strikeout rate outs around a fifth to a quarter of the time. At first glance, a three-year deal for a mediocre 32-year old is a bit of a head scratcher, particularly when you consider a .253 .312 .415 slash against righties. Against lefties, however, Ross is a force with a .284 .353. .557 line. The former Tiger’s skills are equally more impressive against lefties, showing solid plate discipline numbers and an ability to make contact over 80% of the time.
The move has Ross tentatively in CF alongside Jason Kubel and Justin Upton, but given the presence of Adam Eaton, Gerardo Parra and don't forget A.J. Pollock, it’s more likely the Diamondbacks will ship Kubel, his contract, and his DH-worthy defense out of town. As long as Ross continues to play every day, the righty will be overexposed and will not help quite as much in the batting average department. He’s much more valuable for those who can make matchup based daily lineup changes.