Joel Hanrahan would improve Tigers' bullpen, but is one year worth a trade?

Justin K. Aller

Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan would be a significant upgrade to the Tigers' bullpen, but unless the Tigers could get him to agree to a contract extension, he wouldn't be worth the trade cost.

I'm not sure how this rumor started, but I'll feed the beast. Pittsburgh Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan has been the target of Tigers trade rumors now that people have gotten over their Stephen Drew love affair.

Who is he?

Hanrahan is a 31 year old closer who has spent the last three seasons and change with the Pirates. He struggled for a few years with the Washington Nationals prior to his stint in Pittsburgh, but found his groove once the Nationals traded him and Lastings Milledge to the Pirates for Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan. Last season, Hanrahan was 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 36 saves.

Why should we care?

He has been a strikeout machine throughout his career, fanning almost 10 batters per nine innings in his six major league seasons. He overperformed by a wide margin last season, walking over 5 batters per 9 innings, but his previous two seasons in Pittsburgh were as solid as you get as a closer. He saved 40 games in 2011, allowing just one home run in 68 2/3 innings while amassing 2.3 bWAR. Yes, as a closer. As the setup man to Octavio Dotel in 2010, Hanrahan struck out 100 hitters in 69 2/3 innings with a 3.62 ERA/2.62 FIP/2.64 xFIP.

Why should we stay away?

Hanrahan is a free agent after the 2013 season and unless he signs an extension at the time of a potential trade, there's a very good chance that the Tigers could lose him to free agency. What's worse is that the market for Rafael Soriano (or lack thereof) decreases any likelihood of a closer declining a qualifying offer next year. Instead, the Tigers would likely be looking at paying Hanrahan upwards of $14 million for one season.

There's also the possibility that the rumors involving Rick Porcello heading to Pittsburgh for Hanrahan are more than just smoke. Unless the Tigers are able to sign Anibal Sanchez or pick up another decent starter, this blows a gigantic hole into the Tigers' rotation. I don't know about you, but the thought of Casey Crosby being the Tigers' fifth starter terrifies me.

Will he end up in Detroit?

This one is anyone's guess. I don't like the idea of trading for a closer, but despite my week as a mock GM, Dave Dombrowski has a much better idea of Hanrahan's true cost. the one thing working in his favor is the Pirates' tendency to not spend any money, and Hanrahan is due for a decent raise after last season. If the Pirates don't want to spend upwards of $6-8 million on a closer, Dombrowski may be able to cut in with a cheaper offer.

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