Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/20/14
The Pirates completed a trade on Wednesday that sent Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to the Red Sox for Mark Melancon, Jerry Sands, Stolmy Pimentel and Ivan De Jesus. The deal increases organizational depth for the Pirates and gives them a solid reliever in Melancon. The deal also effectively makes Jason Grilli the new Pirates closer. Grilli, who was recently re-signed to a very affordable two-year, $6.75 million contract was probably the better bet to close in Pittsburgh even with Hanrahan present. The subsequent trade of Hanrahan only enhances the value of the contract he signed. Grilli certainly would have been paid more money had he entered free agency as a closer or a reliever seeking closing opportunities. Given his numbers over the last two seasons, it wouldn’t have been crazy to suggest him as a legitimate closer candidate somewhere. Instead, even with strong interest from about half of the league, Grilli stayed in Pittsburgh on a team-friendly contract fit for a 7th or 8th inning reliever. While Holt, Sands, De Jesus and Pimentel all play a role in this deal, the trade really benefits the Pirates by increasing the cost-effectiveness of their bullpen and allowing them to reallocate their savings to other areas of need. The Pirates essentially replaced their closer with a better and cheaper alternative, brought back another cheap reliever whose peripherals closely match that traded closer and signed a starter with the savings. I know the ‘Guess That Player’ game can be tiresome, but it has value in separating performance from perception. Consider the statistics of the three aforementioned relievers over the past two seasons: Reliever A: 128.1 IP, 24.2% K, 9.9% BB, 46.5% GB, 3.28 SIERA Reliever B: 119.1 IP, 21.3% K, 7.6% BB, 54.0% GB, 2.99 SIERA Reliever C: 91.1 IP, 33.1% K, 9.6% BB, 36.4% GB, 2.41 SIERA The first two relievers have very similar peripheral statistics. Reliever A has a slightly higher strikeout while Reliever B has him beat in walk rate and groundball rate. Reliever C, meanwhile, has a substantially higher strikeout rate than his peers and basically the same walk rate as Reliever A. His groundball rate is the lowest of the bunch but his SIERA is over a half-run better than Reliever B’s, and almost an entire run better than Reliever A’s. Reliever A is Joel Hanrahan. Reliever B is Mark Melancon. Reliever C is Jason Grilli. In looking at those numbers, and going on performance alone, it’s hard to argue with using Grilli as the closer over Hanrahan. After adding in their respective 2013 salaries — Grilli at $2.25 million and Hanrahan at an estimated $7 million — the rationale behind the swap becomes even clearer. The more interesting comparison, as it relates to this trade, is between Hanrahan and Melancon. Their peripherals are very similar since 2011 but they have prevented runs at divergent rates. Melancon has a 4.07 ERA, 69.7% LOB and .285 BABIP over the past two seasons. Hanrahan has a 2.24 ERA, 83.7% LOB and .258 BABIP. There may be legitimate non-DIPS reasons for the difference in their run-prevention over the last two seasons but SIERA serves as a better portent of that sort of thing. Additionally, Melancon falls just short of Super-2 status at two years and 98 days of service, meaning he will likely make around $521,000 again next season. While Hanrahan may have an advantage at inducing weaker contact or preventing runners from scoring, it probably isn’t worth a $6.5 million difference in salary, especially given their similar peripherals. Melancon could end up with a bloated ERA like he did with the 2012 Red Sox, but if you were going to bet on a reliever bouncing back, the guy with the ~3.0 K/BB ratio and 55% GB rate is a great choice. After re-signing Grilli the Pirates had approximately $10 million being spent on their setup man and closer this season. By moving Hanrahan for Melancon and taking a flier on Francisco Liriano, they have the may well be able to replicate the Hanrahan-Grilli tandem’s production at 30% of the cost while improving the rotation. It’s very possible that Melancon falters and Liriano, as a change of scenery candidate, stinks regardless of the change. However, the Pirates made better use of that $10 million by making this move after re-signing Grilli and bringing in Liriano.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Jon Jones wanted for questioning in hit and run

Pitcher throws perfect game with 23 strikeouts, still loses

Will LaMarcus Aldridge leave the Portland Trailblazers?

Wizards sweep listless Raptors

Clippers defeat Spurs, even series at 2-2

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

JR Smith 'nervous as hell' about possible suspension

Dana White: No more WWE for Ronda Rousey

Kevin Love rips Kelly Olynyk for 'bush league' play

Report: Eli Manning not concerned about contract

Several teams interested in Bucs' No. 1 overall pick?

Report: Marcus Smart overslept, could get less playing time

WATCH: Former NBA’er Darko Milicic is enjoying life

WATCH: Alex Gordon leaps into stands for incredible catch

WATCH: JR Smith ejected for hitting Jae Crowder in face

WATCH: Kevin Love leaves Game 4 with shoulder injury

Joe Flacco content with current Ravens receivers

WATCH: Demetrious Johnson wins with last-second submission

WATCH: Jerryd Bayless beats Bulls with buzzer-beater

John Legend catches Belichick checking out Chrissy Teigen

Jim Rice to Jim Palmer: 'Quit complaining'

Time Warner-Comcast failed merger hurts Dodgers fans

WATCH: Bucks mascot devours fan

Protestors tried to have Orioles-Red Sox game called off

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Darko Milicic is enjoying life

Pitcher throws perfect game, still loses

Will Aldridge leave the Blazers?

Alex Gordon leaps into stands for catch

Dana White: No more WWE for Rousey

Kevin Love rips Kelly Olynyk

JR Smith ejected for hitting Jae Crowder

Report: Wainwright likely done for year

UAB player brings helmet to graduation

Leah Still scores in Temple spring game

Sanchez shares thoughts on Tebow

Stephen A. Smith blasts Tom Brady

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.