For a moment, let's try to imagine what went through closer Joel Hanrahan's mind on Wednesday:
Oh man, I was traded to the Boston Red Sox! Holy cow, they already named me the closer! Oh crap, I have less job security than the guy who screwed up Richard Sherman's PED test results. Why am I including NFL jokes in my inner monologue?
Well, I'm sure something like that went through his head, though probably not verbatim.
But you can understand his mixture of excitement and apprehension. Yes, he gets to leave the Pittsburgh Pirates and pitch at famous Fenway Park. But he also joins a bullpen that already includes Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara and Alfredo Aceves.
In other words, if Hanrahan can't handle the pressure and disappoints early in the season, the Red Sox don't need to stick with him in that role. The team has options at the back-end of the bullpen.
Now, it's feasible that the Sox could trade one or several of those pitchers and ride with Hanrahan through thick and thin. That might actually make sense, seeing as the Red Sox look like a team with a very big payroll that will finish with 85 wins.
Yeah, they have some holes to fill. As Ben Shapiro of MassLive.com notes, the team doesn't have a ton of trade chips in a crowded bullpen, but a move would make sense:
The Red Sox are unlikely to deal any of the players they've signed this offseason, so Uehara and Hanrahan are both staying put. Bailey's value has probably never been lower, so it is unlikely the Red Sox would get much in the way of tempting offers for the former All-Star closer.
Aceves' temper likely limits his marketability. Junichi Tazawa has shown enough potential that the team would be very hesitant to part with the young prospect.
[Franklin] Morales, [Daniel] Bard and [Andrew] Miller would probably be the three guys most sought after by other teams. As an inexpensive, left-handed pitcher who has shown some potential as a starter, Morales appears to be the most valuable commodity in the now-crowded bullpen.
Nobody is saying the Red Sox will get back Justin Upton if they deal Morales, but he should be able to bring in a nice young prospect or solid, everyday player for the team. He's nothing fancy, but he's certainly a nice trade chip for the team.
Still, that leaves the Red Sox as a team craving certainty at the back-end of the bullpen but possessing plenty of backup options for Hanrahan. It's hard to have the former when you clearly have the latter, at least from a psychological standpoint for a player coming to a new team in a market like Boston.
The Red Sox can make all the claims in the world, but that doesn't preclude the fact that this is Boston, nobody's job is safe and the fanbase will start chanting someone else's name if Hanrahan struggles. There's no certainty in that.
So you'll have to forgive me if I took Boston's proclamation of Hanrahan as the definitive closer with a grain of salt. Boston may wave around a long leash, but we all know the team will wrap that leash around its hand until it becomes a short one.
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