CINCINNATI -- In today's world of instant headlines and 140-character news tidbits, it is common for fans and analysts to focus their attention on the big names in a trade, while paying less attention to the other pieces involved. Though this trend is natural, teams view transactions with a holistic approach, trying to find hidden value in players who are not as heralded when a trade is announced.
Case in point: a six-player trade between the Red Sox and Pirates in December 2012 that sent right hander Joel Hanrahan and infielder Brock Holt to Boston in exchange for reliever Mark Melancon, outfielder Jerry Sands, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. and right hander Stolmy Pimentel.
The deal was widely reported as "the Hanrahan deal," with the Red Sox seeming to fill their void at closer by adding the two-time All-Star after weeks of trade talks. While Hanrahan went on to appear in only nine games for Boston and has dealt with elbow issues ever since, two of the other players involved in the deal, Holt and Melancon, have thrived with their new organizations and found themselves as All-Stars in Cincinnati this week.
"Yeah, it has worked out," Holt said, reflecting on the trade. "Unfortunately, Hanrahan has had some injuries and has had some bad luck. He’s a heck of a pitcher and it’s sad to see him go through the injury struggles. I wish him nothing but the best in trying to rehab and get back."
Holt struggled in his Red Sox debut in 2013, hitting only .203 in 26 major league games before a breakout 2014 season in which he hit .281/.331/.381 with four homers, while appearing at seven different positions for Boston. His .292/.379/.412 line this year led to his first-ever All-Star appearance and an endless series of comparisons to Athletics star Ben Zobrist.
Melancon, now 30, has saved 108 games in three seasons with the Pirates, posting a 1.61 ERA and 8.4 K/9 in that span. Those numbers are a far cry from his lone campaign in Boston, one in which he posted a 6.20 ERA in 41 appearances, in addition to being sent to Triple-A Pawtucket only a year after establishing himself as an effective major leaguer with the Astros.
"I’ve thrown my cutter a lot more, percentage-wise," Melancon said, when asked what the biggest difference has been between his struggles in Boston and his success in Pittsburgh. "It has been a good pitch for me. I feel like I’ve just grown a lot as a pitcher. My location has been really good. That usually sets up for a good combination."
The pair of All-Stars sought each other out this week in Cincinnati, recognizing the improbability that two players who were considered minor pieces in a multi-player deal would end up as All-Stars in the same year.
"It was cool, we both got see each other yesterday," Holt said. "I’ve talked to him before and obviously know of him through the trade. To shake his hand and talk to him a little bit, we’re both pretty happy with where we’re at. We both have nothing but good things to say about our former organizations -- him with the Red Sox, me with the Pirates. It’s pretty cool for both of us."
"It’s really cool," Melancon said. "We got a chance to talk for the first time. He’s a great guy and it’s kinda cool both of us are here."
The Pirates-Red Sox deal is one of four trades to feature multiple players who appeared in this year's Midsummer Classic. In 2010, the Royals acquired Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar as part of a package from the Brewers for Zack Greinke. A year later, All-Stars Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal were part of a package sent from the Reds to the Padres in exchange for pitcher Mat Latos, though neither player reached All-Star status before being sent out of San Diego. NL All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez and Anthony Rizzo were traded for each other back in 2010, when the Red Sox sent a package of prospects to the Padres in exchange for Gonzalez.
Cain, Escobar, Boxberger, Grandal and Rizzo were all highly-touted young players who were expected to be productive major-leaguers. Greinke and Gonzalez were established superstars, so their All-Star nods come as no surprise. Holt and Melancon, on the other hand? They're two of the most unlikely All-Stars in this year's edition.
"I think the teams know what they’re looking for, what they want and need in the organization to make them a better team," Holt said. "They try to seek that out in deals. It could be a guy like me who wasn’t the main piece in a deal, but a guy who can play baseball and who can help a team out. I’m just fortunate to be where I’m at and I’m humbled to be here at the All-Star Game."
"It’s the nature of the thing," Melancon said about how trades are originally judges with a focus on stars. "You live in the present. Fans are fans and they just look at the big deal. It’s understandable. Who doesn’t do that?"