Red Sox and Pirates finalize Joel Hanrahan trade

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An official announcement was delayed over Christmas, but the Red Sox and Pirates have now completed the trade sending reliever Joel Hanrahan to Boston.

Along with Hanrahan the Red Sox also receive Brock Holt, a 24-year-old shortstop with good on-base skills who debuted with the Pirates this year.

In exchange for Hanrahan and Holt the Pirates get first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, reliever Mark Melancon, and prospects Stolmy Pimentel and Ivan De Jesus.

Hanrahan has been one of the best relievers in baseball since 2010, posting a 2.73 ERA with 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 205 appearances, and he saved 76 games during the past three seasons. He’ll be a free agent next offseason.

Sands was acquired by the Red Sox from the Dodgers in the Adrian Gonzalez/Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett trade. He hasn’t hit much in the majors so far, but the 25-year-old has consistently had very strong production in the minors, including hitting .288 with 55 homers and a .914 OPS in 213 games at Triple-A.

Boston got Melancon from Houston last offseason for Jed Lowrie, but he quickly went from setup man to the minors after a brutal start. He returned in June and pitched well with a 4.19 ERA and 40/10 K/BB ratio in 43 innings, so the Pirates definitely bought low on a capable late-inning bullpen arm.

Neither Pimental nor De Jesus ranked among the Red Sox’s top 10 prospects according to Baseball America. De Jesus, who was also acquired in the Gonzalez/Crawford/Beckett swap, has spent most of the past three seasons at Triple-A and projects as a bench player in the majors at age 26. Pimentel spent this season at Double-A as a 22-year-old, throwing 116 innings with a 4.59 ERA and 86/42 K/BB ratio.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.