The Pirates shipped Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox on Wednesday. Let's see what might have motivated the deal from their perspective.
Red Sox get: RP Joel Hanrahan, IF Brock Holt
Pirates get: RP Mark Melancon, OF/1B Jerry Sands, SP Stolmy Pimentel, IF Ivan De Jesus
The Red Sox, of course, get Hanrahan, who battled with wildness and inconsistent velocity in 2012 but held his role as the Pirates' closer. He has excellent stuff and will probably remain a valuable reliever, but if he continues to walk five-plus batters per nine innings, as he did in 2012, he'll induce headaches. He will be owed about $7 million in 2013 and will become a free agent thereafter.
Holt has posted good hitting numbers in the minors, but he's small and will probably -- although not definitely -- struggle to hit in the majors.
For the Pirates, Pimentel and De Jesus are throw-ins who don't contribute much value. The key players in the deal are Melancon and Sands.
Melancon is much more interesting than his 6.20 ERA in 2012 suggests. He has very good stuff and allowed an unsustainably high number of home runs for a ground ball pitcher, so he figures to bounce back in 2013. He should be a key part of the Pirates' bullpen in 2013, and if that goes well, the Pirates can control him for several years thereafter.
Sands' role on the 2013 Pirates is less clear, but he could help also. He's a minor-league slugger who will play next season at age 25. He's best-suited for a corner outfield role, which is a little strange for the Pirates, who will already have Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte in two outfield spots. That leaves Sands, Travis Snider, Jose Tabata and Alex Presley in the other one, which will be difficult because Snider and Tabata are both out of options. Sands could also play first base, but Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez are entrenched there. Sands' acquisition could suggest another trade is in the works. In any case, Sands will likely end up as something like a fringe starter or fourth outfielder, but he does have a chance of being better than that. The same could be said for Snider, however.
The Pirates' main objective in trading Hanrahan was clearing his salary from the books in 2013. Nonetheless, they did fairly well in getting talent in return -- Melancon could be a part of the Bucs' bullpen for years to come, and Sands may contribute as well.