FanPost

Trading Closers: The Ballad of Joakim Soria and Joel Hanrahan

In my morning baseball reading, this piece from Rob Neyer about the Royals popped up on my Twitter feed:

For some time before his elbow gave out on him, some of us wondered why the Royals didn't trade Soria to a contending team. As one of the American League's best relief pitchers and still under team control for a number of seasons, Soria presumably could have brought at least two excellent prospects in a trade. Though Soria didn't make a great deal of money, his talent was valuable and the Royals really haven't turned that talent into much except a few extra wins and a bunch of last-place seasons.

...

You see what I'm getting at? Just now, when the Royals are supposedly ready to start winning, they're loaded with good relief pitchers ... but they remain short of good starting pitchers ... and they could, a year or two or three ago, have traded Soria for a couple of young starting pitchers, one or both of whom might be ready to pitch effectively -- to start effectively -- in the majors right now. And help the Royals actually be good, right now or next year.

And I will say this again: Not trading Joakim Soria when his value was highest is inexcusable, because a high-quality closer is simply not a luxury that a rebuilding team can afford. Even when he's "cheap", there's an opportunity cost that should not be ignored. The front office ignored that opportunity cost, and now it's going to cost them.

This doesn't explicitly reference the Pirates, obviously, but I couldn't help but feel like I did right around the trade deadline last year: The team was clinging to a luxury good (Hanrahan) at a period in the rebuilding process when they shouldn't have. A little later in the morning, I came across this in an Eric Karabell post on closers:

Save leader: Look, Joel Hanrahan is awesome, but the Pirates should trade him before his arm falls off (see Soria, Joakim). That's reality for a 90-loss team. But they won't. He saves 37.

You could make - and I have seen - the arguments for why Hanrahan shouldn't have been dealt. The team was still technically in contention at the deadline last year, and with the good vibes going on in PNC, it would have been a bad PR move to trade the All-Star closer when a lot of people thought the Pirates should be buyers. But it's not hindsight to say it was a bad move not to trade him, as this was Pat Lackey immediately after the deadline:

And so I sit here the morning after the trade deadline, and I can't help but wonder if the Pirates blew it yesterday. The Rangers paid huge dividends to the Padres and Orioles for relief help. What was Joel Hanrahan worth in a trade?

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Still, I can't help but weigh just how long of a shot this is against what the Pirates could've gotten by trading assets away now. Is this essentially a drive for 82? Is that best for the long-term future of the franchise? Was it done to pacify the huge influx of fans with the worry that it was hard enough to get fans to the park before the team traded away productive players while in the middle of a nominal pennant race? Was it done to keep the team from being absolutely hammered by the national media that suddenly adores them? Do any of these factors besides the how the team develops in the long-term really matter?

The Pirates still have control over Hanrahan for the next two seasons, and unless everything breaks their way and they're clearly in contention come mid-summer, I think it would be incredibly foolish and a huge error by the front office not to move Hanrahan if the interest was there. His stats slipped in the second half of 2011, but if The Hammer can rebuild his value, he could bring back a nice piece to help the Buccos when they'll (hopefully) be true contenders in 2014 through the rest of the decade.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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