Pirates finalize deal to send Hanrahan to Boston

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 1:22 p.m.

The Pirates' new closer was not happy to see the old one go.

Wednesday, the Pirates finalized a six-player trade which sent Joel Hanrahan, a two-time All-Star, to the Boston Red Sox. In exchange for Hanrahan and infielder Brock Holt, the Pirates got outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr., and right-handers Stolmy Pimentel and Mark Melancon.

The departure of Hanrahan, who ranks fourth in Pirates history with 86 saves, makes Jason Grilli the closer going into the 2013 season.

“It's Jason's job to keep,” general manager Neal Huntington said.

Grilli, 36, has just five saves over 10 seasons in the major leagues. This will be the first time he goes into a season as the closer.

“I'm really looking forward to that challenge,” Grilli said. “But I'm disappointed, too, to see a good teammate go. Joel's a great guy. We gave up a good player.”

With a payroll that will top out around $70 million, the Pirates could not afford to keep both Grilli and Hanrahan. Grilli re-signed with the Pirates for two years and $6.75 million. Hanrahan, 31, likely will make about $7 million next season.

“Trading Joel was a difficult decision, but we found what we think is a good baseball trade,” Huntington said.

Melancon, who made $521,000 this year, might have the stuff to become one of Grilli's setup men. Melancon notched 20 saves for the Houston Astros in 2011. In 41 outings last season for Boston, he averaged 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

“Our (scouts) really like his stuff,” Huntington said. “He has the ability to get a ground ball (out) and the ability to get a strikeout.”

Melancon, Sands and Pimentel were placed on the 40-man roster. The Pirates still must make a corresponding move to open one roster spot.

DeJesus will go to spring training camp as a non-roster invitee. Sands and Pimentel each have a minor league option remaining and will go to Triple-A Indianapolis if they do not make the club out of spring training.

Sands and DeJesus joined the Red Sox this year as part of a nine-player trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 70 games in the majors, Sands has hit .244 with a .701 OPS. Last season at Triple-A Albuquerque, he batted .296 with 26 homers and a .900 OPS.

“He'll be part of the competition for our left- and right-field spots,” Huntington said. “Or, he could be an option at first base if Garrett Jones is in right field.”

Pimentel has a fastball that touches 95 mph. Pirates scouts are split on whether the slider or changeup will develop into his second-best pitch.

In 22 starts last season for Double-A Portland, he went 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. In five seasons in the minors, he's averaged 7.11 strikeouts and 2.88 walks per nine innings.

“We tried to (trade for) him a couple times in the past,” Huntington said. “We still think the arm is there, and he has a chance to be a (big league) starter.”

DeJesus projects as a utility infielder in the majors. He is the son of former big league shortstop Ivan DeJesus.

Notes: Grilli is working out with a personal trainer this winter and will not attend the voluntary minicamp, which begins Jan. 7 in Bradenton, Fla. ... Holt, 24, batted .292 in 24 games last season. “Boston wanted him, and we were hesitant to give him up,” Huntington said. “But, looking longer down the road, we believe Neil Walker has a chance to be our everyday second baseman for years to come.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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