The Pittsburgh Pirates Should Sell High on Joel Hanrahan: a Fan’s Opinion

The Pittsburgh Pirates are headed in the right direction but let's not give them too much credit yet. So far the good decisions the Pirates have been making—signing players to extensions, making good trades, spending money on the draft—are the easy decisions they should have been making years ago. That's not to say the Pirates don't deserve to be commended, it just means that now they have to start making tough decisions.

The first tough decision I said the Pirates had to make was the decision to not give Neil Walker(notes) a contract extension. The second tough decision the Pirates should make is to trade Joel Hanrahan(notes).

Trading Hanrahan would not be a popular decision because it would remind fans of the days when Pittsburgh traded every player that had any value in order to save money. In this instance though, the Pirates would not be trading Hanrahan because they are cheap. Trading Hanarahan would be a way to improve the team because there are several reasons that trading Hanrahan makes sense.

First, closers are not that important. That's right, I'm one of those guys. Saves mean nothing. Jason Grilli(notes) and Jose Veras(notes) both had better BAA, whose is to say they can't fill the role, or Evan Meek(notes) or some completely new reliever that comes out of nowhere?

Closers come out of nowhere all the time and often they disappear just as quickly. Hanrahan himself is an example of that. Hanrahan had a 1.83 ERA last season but his career ERA is 3.62. That's hardly proof of a consistent closer. If you want proof that the closer isn't an important position then again look at Hanrahan. Hanrahan had one good season as a closer and a handful of saves before that. His 60 saves ranks Hanrahan 38th among active pitchers in saves. That's it. It takes just one good season to catapult a player to top 40.

Let's also not forget that the Pirates aren't one year away. The Pirates don't just need Hanrahan to repeat his 2011 season next year or the next year after that. The Pirates need Hanrahan to be a great closer for the next three seasons for him to be closing games when the Pirates are Championship contenders. Do you really believe that Hanrahan is a sure thing closer for the next three seasons? The only sure thing is Mariano Rivera(notes). Even guys like Jonathan Papelbon(notes), Francisco Rodriguez and Joe Nathan(notes) have fallen off for one reason or another.

The good news for the Pirates is that other teams do believe the closer position is important and they will give up a lot to get it. That gives Pittsburgh a golden opportunity. Hanrahan is the one player on the roster-other than Andrew McCutchen(notes)-that the Pirates can swap for something of greater value.

The Pirates are given a hard time for their transactions over the past few years but Neil Huntington has made some good trades. Some of the players that Huntington has acquired include Jose Tabata(notes), Derrek Lee(notes), Jeff Karstens(notes), James McDonald(notes), Daniel McCutchen(notes), Ross Ohlendorf(notes) oh and of course, Joel Hanrahan. Everybody remembers the Jason Bay(notes) trade but that's one of only two bad trades Huntington has made. Pirates fans that are tired of the penny pinching need to take their beef to ownership, Huntington has actually done really well. The Pirates should trust in Huntington and let him find a good package deal for Hanrahan while the Pirates closer is still worth something.

More Articles from Lee Andrew Henderson:

Why the New Collective Bargaining Agreement is Awful for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Other Small Market Teams

Major League Baseball Team with the Best World Series Winning Percentage

Five Reasons Novak Djokovic is the Best Sports Story of 2011

Sources:

Joel Hanrahan's Stats were found at Baseball-Reference.com

The last several generations of Lee Andrew Henderson's family were Pittsburgh born and even though he was born in Alabama he has been a long time fan of the Pirates, Steelers and Panthers. Lee Andrew Henderson can be found on Twitter at @LeeAHenderson

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Updated Monday, Nov 28, 2011