The Boston Red Sox found a bona fide
closer on Dec. 26, 2012. At least it sure looked like they did.
(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
In a six-player deal, Boston
acquired back-to-back All-Star Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hanrahan was coming to town after chalking up 76 saves in 2011 and 2012 when he
posted ERAs of 1.83 and 2.72.
Hanrahan was only under contract for
one year heading into 2013, but the Red Sox knew they had a reliable man to
hand the ball to in the ninth inning for at least one season.
As it turns out, the 2013 Red Sox
won the World Series thanks in large part to a dominating closer, but it
certainly wasn’t Hanrahan who Big Papi was throwing over his shoulder after every win. He turned
out to be a major bust, pitching just 7.1 innings for the Sox. His ERA swelled
to 9.82 before he underwent Tommy John surgery.
To land Hanrahan, the Red Sox sent
reliever Mark Melancon, first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands and infielder Ivan
De Jesus Jr. to the Pirates. Nobody was sad to see Melancon go. He proved right
away that he didn’t have the mental makeup to pitch in Boston.
Still, after Hanrahan announced he
was shutting it down for Tommy John, we hated that the Red Sox sent anything
more than a case of balls to Pittsburgh for the pitcher. It wasn’t exactly Jeff
Bagwell for Larry Anderson, but the trade for Hanrahan was looking like it
would be monumentally bad.
Luckily for the Red Sox, a
little-known infielder named Brock Holt was thrown into the trade with
Hanrahan. He was a prospect who was at least close to Major League ready, judging by his
72 plate appearances with the Pirates in 2012. He hit .292 with two doubles and
The throw-in infielder was hardly a big-time prospect. Baseball America ranked Holt No. 27 in the Pirates
organization in 2010. He wasn’t featured in the Baseball America’s annual
Prospect Handbook the following years, however.
Holt end up playing in 26 games for
the Red Sox in 2013, and he didn’t exactly set the world on fire. He hit .203
with two double and 72 plate appearances.
We didn’t get to know the real Brock
Holt until last season. That’s when we realized the Hanrahan trade might have
been a steal after all.
Holt was called up because of an
injury to Will Middlebrooks, and he ended up playing 106 games for the Red Sox.
He played every position but pitcher and catcher, and was superb in the field
and electrifying at the plate before a concussion ended his season.
Those 106 games were the highlight
of a lost season. He was not only arguably the MVP of the Red Sox last year, he
was one of the only reasons to watch the team at all.
This past offseason the Red Sox
signed Pablo Sandoval to play third base, and they started hoarding outfielders
starting with last year's late-season signing of Rusney Castillo.
After a year of messing with his
head, the team is recommitted to Xander Bogaerts at short, and rightly so. With
Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli and his new jaw firmly entrenched on the right
side of the infield, Holt is left without a position.
That relegated Holt to the role of
“super-utility player,” a term that seems silly and fitting at the same time.
So far this season, Holt has started
in center field, second base, shortstop and third base. After Monday’s start at
third, Holt has gone 37 games without committing an error.
Holt is still electrifying. He has
appeared in eight games and is batting .462. Behind Mookie Betts, Holt might be
Boston’s most exciting player to watch.
On the rebuilt Red Sox, Holt isn’t
an everyday player, which has to give Sox fans reason to believe that the 2015
lineup has the potential to be something truly special. He is, however, a
backup for whom John Farrell can’t help but find a reason to rest one of his
everyday players nearly every day.
While he might not be best player at
any position on the Red Sox, the Red Sox are definitely a better team every
night their super-utility player is in the lineup.
Yes, Hanrahan was one of the biggest
trade busts in team history. Sadly, he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the Major
Leagues since his surgery.
Thanks to Holt, the Red Sox and
their fans would still make that trade again in a heartbeat.