Report: Rangers ask Pirates about closer Joel Hanrahan

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The Pirates’ most attractive piece in trade talks is already getting some attention, as the Rangers have asked the team about closer Joel Hanrahan, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.

Hanrahan fanned 100 batters in 69 2/3 innings for the Pirates last season, but he seemed intimidated in the closer’s role during his first trial in Washington and he was again shaky after Octavio Dotel was traded last year and he was asked to share save chances with Evan Meek.

This year, though, Hanrahan has thrived as a closer, going 13-for-13 in his save opportunities.  His strikeout rate is well down — he’s fanned 16 in 21 2/3 innings — but he’s also cut way back on the walks and he’s allowed just one homer in 21 2/3 innings.

If the Rangers picked up Hanrahan, it would be with the idea of using him as a setup man this year and then potentially making him the closer and moving Neftali Feliz into the rotation next season.  Hanrahan is making just $1.4 million and he’s under control through 2013, so his addition wouldn’t be a problem financially.

Of course, that’s also good reason for the Pirates to keep him.  If Hanrahan spends all year in the closer’s role, he could get a raise to $5 million or so in 2012.  Still, that’s not a major problem for the Pirates, given that they’re not going to spending big on free agents.  Hanrahan will fit well into their budget going forward, and they’re not going to be inclined to trade him this year unless their bowled over.   The Rangers would likely have to start with top shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar and add from there.

The Pirates are, not surprisingly, leaning against trading Andrew McCutchen

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Over the winter there was serious talk about the Pirates trading Andrew McCutchen to the Washington Nationals. His move to left field to allow Starling Marte to take over center further served to make McCutchen a less important part of the Pirates long term plans.

Then the season began, Marte got suspended for PEDs and, after a bumpy start, McCutchen caught fire. He hit .411/.505/.689 in June he has a .333/.444/.561 line in the month of July. For the year he’s now at .292/.384/.507 with 17 homers and 57 RBI. Even with Marte back on the roster, McCutchen is the Pirates’ center fielder. What’s more, the Pirates, after beginning the season slowly have righted the ship somewhat and are now only three games back in the NL Central.

All of which makes this, from Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, unsurprising:

That option is a quite reasonable $14.5 million, so it seems sorta crazy that they wouldn’t pick it up. Of course if they remain coy enough about it for now perhaps someone will bowl them over with an offer. Letting McCutchen walk seems insane. Unloading him for a hefty haul would, well, still be kinda crazy given how popular McCutchen is with the fan base, but not truly insane.

The Brewers are talking to the Tigers about Ian Kinsler, Justin Wilson

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The Brewers were rumored last week to have been “aggressive” in talks for Tigers reliever Justin Wilson. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports, however, that the talks are a bit more wide-ranging than that.

Crasnick says that the two clubs are also discussing Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, potentially in a package deal with Wilson. Crasnick says that the Brewers “would love to have Kinsler,” but their main focus at the moment is pitching help. Of course, the Brewers current second baseman — Jonathan Villar — is hitting a meager .223/.285/.348 in 334 plate appearances.

Kinsler is having a down season for him — .237/.331/.400 — but he’s better than that and, of course, would represent an improvement. He’s under contract through the end of this year but he has a very affordable, $10 million club option for 2018. Wilson will be arbitration-eligible this offseason, so he’s still under team control as well. As such a Kinsler/Wilson package would likely cost the Brewers a high price, so you have to think they’d try to exhaust cheaper options before making such a deal.

The Brewers had been in first place in the NL Central since June 7, but the Cubs caught them yesterday. They’re in a virtual tie, with Chicago percentage points ahead. This should prove to be a very interesting week for the Brewers’ front office.