Pirates announce Joel Hanrahan will begin season as closer

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Joel Hanrahan entered camp as the favorite to claim ninth-inning duties in Pittsburgh and the Pirates wasted little time making it official, announcing this afternoon that he’ll begin the season as closer.

While his 3.62 ERA last season may appear mediocre, Hanrahan had a breakout season with 100 strikeouts and a .221 opponents’ batting average in 70 innings. Among all pitchers with at least 50 innings last season only Carlos Marmol (16.0) and Billy Wagner (13.5) racked up more strikeouts per nine innings than Hanrahan (12.9)

He also cut down on his walks, handing out a career-low 3.4 free passes per nine innings, and served up just six homers in 294 plate appearances. Hanrahan lacks closer experience, but he certainly doesn’t lack closer stuff. Pittsburgh may not have a ton of late leads to protect, but with left-hander Evan Meek (2.14 ERA, 70/31 K/BB ratio in 80 innings) setting up Hanrahan the back of the bullpen should be one of their few strengths.

A.J. Pollock may be the Dodgers’ next free agent target

A.J. Pollock
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Free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock has landed on the Dodgers’ radar, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal says the two appear to be in discussions regarding a deal for 2019. Terms of any prospective deal have not been released, but interest is presumed to be fairly high as he checks two boxes on their wish list: that of a right-handed hitter and an experienced centerfielder.

Pollock, 31, rounded out a seven-year career with the Diamondbacks in 2018. While he was sidelined for nearly seven weeks after fracturing his left thumb on a dive gone wrong, he finished the season batting a hearty .257/.316/.484 with a career-best 21 home runs, 13 steals (in 15 chances), and 2.5 fWAR across 460 plate appearances. He received a $17.9 million qualifying offer from the club at the end of the year and elected to enter free agency in hopes of a better deal, which some have estimated at five years and $80 million.

So far, it’s not clear whether teams are willing to meet those terms. Pollock profiles as both a solid hitter and defender, but he hasn’t played a season in full health since 2015, which may be a deal-breaker for those in search of long-term talent. Even with that caveat, however, the Dodgers are far from the only club willing to enter negotiations with the outfielder this winter. The Braves have been linked to Pollock since December, and the Mets and Reds have expressed varying levels of interest as well.