After a few days of waiting, the Red Sox and Pirates finally finalized the Joel Hanrahan trade yesterday. The deal sends Hanrahan and infield prospect Brock Holt to Boston for four players: corner outfielder/infielder Jerry Sands, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr., right-hander Stolmy Pimentel, and former Yankee Mark Melancon. I’m not here to discuss the merits of the trade from either side, but instead the framework.
By acquiring Hanrahan, the Red Sox cleared up some of their 40-man roster clutter. Sands, who I like more than most it seems, was made redundant by Jonny Gomes, Ryan Lavarnway, and Mike Napoli (if that deal ever gets done). Pimentel was once a top pitching prospect who has posted a 5.96 ERA (4.49 FIP) in Double-A over the last two years. He, like Sands, has one minor league option left. Melancon was an out-of-options middle reliever on a team with bullpen depth to spare. DeJesus was the only one of the four players going to Pittsburgh who was not on the 40-man while Holt has all three minor league options remaining.
The Yankees, like the Red Sox prior to the trade, have an awful lot of clutter on the 40-man roster. By clutter I mean youngsters who don’t figure to contribute much in 2013 or just fringy prospects in general. Ramon Flores, Jose Ramirez, and Nik Turley fall into the former category while Zoilo Almonte, Corban Joseph, and even Dellin Betances make up the latter. They’re interesting enough to keep around but hardly high priority guys, kinda like Sands, Melancon, and Pimentel. Given their big league roster needs (starting catcher, right-handed outfield bat, DH, bench), the Yankees are going to have to clear some 40-man spots before Opening Day.
Packaging two or three of those clutter pieces for one big leaguer seems like a wonderful idea in theory, but it’s much more difficult to actually put into practice. For starters, you have to find a team willing to take on several of those players and commit 40-man spots to them. That’s not easy. A rebuilding team isn’t looking to take on fringe prospects just because. Most clubs prioritize quality over quantity these days, even if it means getting back fewer pieces. Turning say, Betances and Joseph and Zoilo into a quality reliever or bench player is more of a pipe dream than anything, but the Red Sox just showed that turning spare parts into a useful player can be done.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying the Yankees missed out by not trading for Hanrahan. He would have helped the bullpen but New York is hardly in need of a $7M late-inning reliever, especially one with walk issues. I do want to see the team follow in Boston’s footsteps by turning some of those spare part guys who just don’t fit into the team’s long-term plans into a player who can help them win this season. These guys are going to start getting designated for assignment and plucked off waivers pretty soon, so it would be nice to get some kind of return before then.