A person familiar with the talks said the Red Sox and Pirates are close to completing a trade that would send All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston for a handful of prospects.
Pittsburgh would ship Hanrahan and another player to the Red Sox in exchange for four players, including outfielder-first baseman Jerry Sands and minor league pitcher Stolmy Pimentel. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Saturday because the trade was pending physicals and had not been finalized.
The deal was previously reported by several media outlets.
The 31-year-old Hanrahan has been one of baseball’s best closers the last two years, saving 76 games from 2011-12 and making the NL All-Star team in both seasons. He made $4,135,000 this year and is eligible for arbitration, putting him in line for a hefty raise.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Hanrahan and his 96 mph fastball gave the Pirates stability at the back end of the bullpen after he took over the closer’s role full-time in 2011. He helped the Pirates post a 22-game improvement from 2010 to 2012. Pittsburgh went 79-83 this year, tied for the franchise’s best record in two decades—though it was still the team’s 20th straight losing season.
Jason Grilli, re-signed by the Pirates this month, would likely step into the closer role next year.
The Red Sox hope Hanrahan will be able to give their beleaguered bullpen an identity. Boston slumped to a 69-93 record in 2012 thanks in part to a bullpen that struggled after closer Jonathan Papelbon left for Philadelphia in free agency. Fill-in Alfredo Aceves went 2-10 with a 5.36 ERA and eight blown saves in 33 chances as the Red Sox finished last in the AL East.
Hanrahan would team with 28-year-old righty Andrew Bailey to give the Red Sox a potent 1-2 punch in the late innings. Bailey was expected to be the closer last season but he missed most of the year with an injury. He finished 1-1 with six saves and a 7.04 ERA in 19 games for the Red Sox after spending 2009-11 as the closer in Oakland.
The move could also be a one-year experiment if the Red Sox don’t sign Hanrahan to a new contract. He can become a free agent after the 2013 season.
The Pirates would get a potential slugger in the 25-year-old Sands, who hit 296 with 26 home runs and 107 RBIs at Triple-A last season. He came to the Red Sox in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers and his bat and versatility could make Pittsburgh first baseman-outfielder Garrett Jones expendable. Jones hit a career-high 27 home runs in 2012, when he made $2.25 million, and he will be eligible for arbitration after next season. The Pirates already have a first baseman in place in Gaby Sanchez, who came over in a trade with the Miami Marlins last season.
The proposed trade caps a busy few days for the Pirates, who have agreed in principal to sign former Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox left-hander Francisco Liriano. The $14 million, two-year deal is pending a physical.
Liriano would give Pittsburgh four experienced starters heading into 2013, joining A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald. The 29-year-old Liriano is 53-54 with a 4.40 ERA in seven major league seasons. He went 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA in 2012 while splitting the season between the Twins and White Sox.