Joel Hanrahan has emerged as one of the better relief pitchers in baseball since coming over from the Nationals in the Njyer Morgan trade in June of 2009. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a 1.83 ERA this season and finished sixth in the National League with 40 saves.
Sure, save totals don’t tell us much about how a player actually performed, but relievers are regularly rewarded by that metric through the arbitration process. This puts the Pirates in an interesting position this winter.
Hanrahan earned $1.4 million this season and could see his salary reach as much as $4 million in his second year of arbitration. He told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com that while he is open to a contract extension with the Pirates, he is also aware of organization’s reluctance to hand out multi-year contracts to relief pitchers.
“Yeah, of course I’d listen to it,” said Hanrahan, who saved 40 games in his first full season as the club’s closer. “It’s every player’s goal to get a multiyear contract. If they approach me with it, I’ll listen to it and take it in. It’s a situation where we’ll see what happens.
“I don’t think the track record with relievers and long-term deals in Pittsburgh is much because I don’t think they’ve handed too many of them out. But I’d be prepared for whatever.”
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has only given one-year multi-year deal to a reliever since he was hired in September of 2007, inking Matt Capps to a two-year, $3.15 million contract prior to the 2008 season. He ended up being non-tendered after posting a 5.80 ERA and 46/17 K/BB ratio over 54 1/3 innings in 2009.
If the Pirates sign Hanrahan to an extension now, they could buy out his final two years of arbitration and perhaps a year of free agency, but it might not be the best idea to commit major dollars to a closer when the team isn’t exactly knocking on the door of contention. This may actually be the ideal time to trade him to a contender who isn’t too keen on dishing out a three or four-year deal for the likes of Heath Bell or Ryan Madson.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.