Getting Joel Hanrahan Shows Red Sox Still Trying


No one can claim that the Boston Red Sox aren’t doing their part to shore up the U.S. economy and to help those holiday shopping statistics. Have bank account, will spend, is the Sox motto this off-season. Actually, the single funniest moment of this baseball off-season occurred when general manager Ben Cherrington felt compelled to hold a press conference to reassure fans that the Red Sox would spend gazillions of dollars as soon as they could find people to spend those dollars on.

Well, he was true to his word, to a point. The Red Sox organization has to be one of the few in the world that has been desperately trying to throw dollars at people and can’t find takers fast enough. Although Boston has been an aggressive free agent player, and as the acquisition of ex-Pittsburgh reliever Joel Hanrahan this week shows, in the trade market, as well, they still haven’t done enough or acquired enough to completely reinvent themselves and ensure they will be pennant contenders in 2013.

Just scratch off the word “Pirates” from the front of relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan’s uniform. The Pittsburgh All-Star was traded to the Boston Red Sox this week to become their closer. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Few teams have experienced as much upheaval as the Red Sox over a three-season period. When the team reports to spring training, it will be adjusting to its third manager in three seasons as the club shifts from Terry Francona to Bobby Valentine to John Farrell. Of course, not everyone on the team will live through the three regimes because many players have also come and gone.

The Red Sox began to panic at the end of the 2011 campaign when the team blew its sure-thing playoff spot on the last day of the season. Then, instead of turning things around, the Sox sank deeper into a morass in 2012, finishing last in the American League East Division. Not only was it decided that the divisive Valentine must go, but pretty much anyone he ever said hello to, so the Red Sox are in the middle of a massive makeover.

Those busy little beavers in the front office have been chasing just about anyone on the free agent market that could spell Boston, never mind only guys they thought might look good in a uniform that had that word on the front. The BoSox did not get autographs from everyone they sought, but they have landed a number of bodies they will be counting on in 2013.

Since the bats and balls were put away at the end of the 2012 season, the Red Sox signed free agent starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, relief pitcher Koji Uehara, infielder Stephen Drew, catcher David Ross, and outfielders Shane Victorino and Johnny Gomes. This holiday week they traded for Hanrahan, who was the Pirates closer and was chosen for the 2012 All-Star team, and infielder Brock Holt. Allegedly, there has been a deal in place with catcher Mike Napoli for some weeks now, but apparently a hitch has developed preventing it from becoming finalized. And now the Sox have begun talking with Adam LaRoche.

Lot of new faces and there is optimism that they will help revive the team, but while most of them figure to be solid guys, none of them sets the torch ablaze with excitement. The big one who got away was Josh Hamilton, who might have been a game changer. While Boston has shored up its pitching–and Lord knows they needed to do something with the bullpen–the Red Sox don’t win big at Fenway Park without a lineup of sluggers. There are boxers and there are punchers and the Red Sox never beat teams with finesse. The Red Sox don’t scratch out runs, they bludgeon people.

So what the Red Sox can still use in the post-Christmas shift-through-the-leftovers season is one more dude who can bash the heck out of the ball. Oh yes, and money is no object.