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December 26, 2012 at 2:03 PM

Red Sox acquire Hanrahan and Holt from Pirates for Pimentel, Melancon, Sands, and De Jesus

The Red Sox finalized their trade for relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan on Wednesday, acquiring the right-hander and infielder Brock Holt from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for right-handers Stolmy Pimentel and Mark Melancon, first baseman/outfielder Jerry Sands, and infielder Ivan De Jesus, Jr.

The trade filled off-field needs for both clubs: The Pirates shed Hanrahan's salary, which in his third year of arbitration was projected by MLB Trade Rumors' Matt Swartz to be just under $7 million, while the Red Sox open up a spot on their 40-man roster, which they immediately filled by announcing the signing of free agent shortstop Stephen Drew.

The right-handed Hanrahan was one of the best relievers in baseball from 2010 to 2011, but regressed in 2012, walking 5.4 batters per nine innings and allowing more home runs than he had at any time with the Pirates. Despite this, he still managed to hold his ERA at 2.72 and strike out over a better per inning. He slots in at the back of the Red Sox bullpen, which is now one of the best in baseball with Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Koji Uehara providing a back-end to a bullpen. Hanrahan will be a free agent after the 2012 season, so this may just be a one-year rental for the Red Sox.

Holt made his major league debut 2012 as a September call-up, hitting .292/.329/.354 in 72 plate appearances in 24 games with the Pirates. Although he has primarily been a shortstop in the minors, he played second base exclusively in the Majors and his defensive tools profile much better at that position. Some scouts feel that he could handle second base full-time in the majors at some point, while others see him as more of a utility infielder off the bench who can handle shortstop for limited periods if necessary. Described as a gamer by at least one NL scout, Holt has hit at every level since being drafted in the ninth round out of Rice University in 2009. In 538 minor league plate appearances split between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis in 2012, Holt hit .344/.406/.453 with three home runs and 49 walks, striking out 60 times. He does not project to steal bases in the majors, with a minor league steal rate barely above 50 percent. The most significant difference between Holt and the departed De Jesus is that Holt has all three options remaining, allowing the Red Sox to stash him in Pawtucket to call upon in case of injury.

Pimentel has been in the Red Sox system since 2006, when he was signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old for just $25,000. Added to the 40-man roster in November of 2010, Pimentel is entering his last option year, and the once-hot prospect still has not produced quality results in the upper levels of the minors. Ranked the number 5 prospect in the system by SoxProspects.com entering the 2011 season, Pimentel's fall has been a case of the results not matching the stuff, as he has among the best stuff in the Red Sox system, but has been prone to inconsistency for the past two seasons. He can consistently hit the mid 90s with his fastball in short stints, which is why many scouts see his future in the bullpen. A transition to the bullpen would also mitigate the problems he has repeating his delivery, which has caused control problems that particularly snowballed in 2011, leading to a mid-season demotion from Portland to Salem. In addition to his fastball, he features a changeup that can miss bats and a slider he started throwing in 2011 which shows strong potential. Pimentel is likely to start in either Double- or Triple-A, and it will be interesting to see if the Pirates keep him as a starter or put him in the bullpen right away, given his 40-man status.

Melancon, acquired last offseason from the Houston Astros in exchange for shortstop Jed Lowrie and right-handed pitcher Kyle Weiland, was a major disappointment in 2012. His season began in Boston with four disastrous appearances in which he faced 18 batters and retired just six of them, getting charged with 11 runs in two-plus innings. After being demoted to Pawtucket and dominating for nearly two months, allowing just two runs on 15 hits and three walks in 21 1/3 innings while striking out 27, he returned to Boston and remained inconsistent for the rest of the season.

Sands and De Jesus were both acquired in the August blockbuster with the Dodgers. Sands would have competed in spring training for a spot as a bench player for the Red Sox in 2013. Sands can play both corner outfield spots as well as first base, but despite excellent statistics in Triple-A the past two seasons, his bat is still a bit of a question mark. Fans may look at his line for Albuquerque and be impressed with his near .300 average and 26 home runs, but those numbers came in an extremely hitter-friendly environment. Sands has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game and struggles with advanced off-speed pitches. He never played a game in the Red Sox organization, but trading him does clear another spot on the crowded 40-man roster.

De Jesus was designated for assignment and outrighted to Pawtucket earlier this offseason. Once a shortstop, his range has diminished since he broke his leg in 2009, and he now profiles best as a second baseman. He hit .220/.267/.293 in 45 major league plate appearances between Los Angeles and Boston, but had success at the plate in Triple-A with a combined .304/.343/.416 line, including a .385/.429/.423 mark in 28 plate appearances in Pawtucket. De Jesus also has been hitting quite well in winter ball in Puerto Rico, notching a .355/.410/.488 line with two home runs in 121 at-bats.

The trade continues a trend of deals between the Red Sox and Pirates. This is the third trade between the clubs in 2012 and their 11th trade since 2008.