Pirates agree to trade Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox

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UPDATE, SUNDAY: The Pirates will also get right-handed reliever Mark Melancon from the Red Sox, according to Bowden. Heyman says there’s “still some discussion” about the remaining players involved so negotiations may run past Christmas.

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SATURDAY, 5:02 PM: Heyman reports that it’s a six-player deal, with four going to Pittsburgh and two going to Boston.

4:55 PM: Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates are sending another player to Boston along with Hanrahan. Meanwhile, Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette hears that the Pirates will get more than two players in return.

4:32 PM: Bowden reports that the deal has been agreed upon. It’s not clear if other players are involved.

4:27 PM: Bowden hears that the Pirates will get Jerry Sands and prospect right-hander Stolmy Pimentel in the proposed deal.

Pimentel, who turns 23 in February, has a 4.37 ERA over six seasons in the minors. He posted a 4.59 ERA and 86/42 K/BB ratio over 115 2/3 innings with Double-A Portland this past season. Baseball America ranked him as the organization’s No. 6 prospect prior to the 2011 season, but his star has faded a bit since.

3:44 PM: Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM reports that the Pirates would acquire Jerry Sands as part of the return for Hanrahan. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman was the first to mention that Sands could be involved.

Sands was acquired as a player to be named later in the August blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. The 25-year-old has posted some big numbers in the minors, particularly in the Pacific Coast League over the last two seasons, but he owns a .244/.325/.376 batting line over 251 plate appearances in the big leagues. A right-handed hitter with pop, he might fit best as a platoon player at first base or in the outfield. If acquired, the Pirates would have quite the logjam.

2:05 PM: There has been speculation that prospect infielder Jose Iglesias might go to Pittsburgh in the deal, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports hears that he’s not involved in talks.

1:31 PM: After shopping closer Joel Hanrahan for most of the winter, it appears the Pirates have finally found a match.

According to Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston, the Red Sox are moving toward acquiring Hanrahan from the Pirates. It’s not a done deal yet, as one official told Edes that there’s “still work to be done.” It’s not known who the Pirates would get in return.

Hanrahan has saved 76 games over the past two seasons and would offer some insurance for Andrew Bailey, who has been injury-prone during his career and missed most of last season following thumb surgery. The 31-year-old right-hander earned $4.1 million in 2012 and is due a big raise in arbitration this winter. He can become a free agent following the 2013 season.

If the Pirates trade Hanrahan, Jason Grilli will likely take over as closer next season. He recently signed a two-year, $6.75 million contract in order to stay with Pittsburgh.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.