Assessing A Potential Ryan Hanigan Trade

By David Hill

Ryan Hanigan has been in the Cincinnati Reds organization since 2002. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Rollins College, he climbed through the Reds system fairly quickly, appearing in a AAA game in 2003 before sticking in the International League in 2006. Along the way, Hanigan displayed a solid ability to make contact, a good batting eye, and good defense. He never displayed a lot of power (18 career minor league home runs in 1886 at bats), but he appeared as though he could be a solid asset as a major league starter.

The Reds, however, have thought otherwise. Hanigan reached the major leagues to stay in 2009, following two brief call ups in 2007 and 2008. From 2009 through 2011, Hanigan had been in a time share with Ramon Hernandez, despite hitting both left handed and right handed pitching well. Hernandez had a bit more power; however, Hanigan is a better defensive catcher. The time share was also not a strict platoon either, as Dusty Baker essentially played them equally. Hanigan played in 251 games in that time frame, while Hernanez appeared in 268 games.

This year, Hanigan once again finds himself in a time share, this time with catching prospect Devin Mesoraco. Mesoraco is the future at catcher for the Reds, causing Hanigan to be the subject of ongoing trade rumors. While he did sign a three year extension in 2011, it was for a total of $4Million, with $1.2Million being due this year and another $2.05Million due in 2013. Hanigan is also under team control for another season, as only two years of arbitration had been bought out by his contract.

Hanigan fits the Rays in a number of ways. First, his contract is extremely budget friendly, and he is still under control for another year thereafter. Second, he is a good contact hitter; with a career line of .275/.370/.365, more walks than strikeouts (121 to 102), and has displayed a bit more power than anticipated (16 home runs in 868 at bats). Hanigan also helps with the Rays run prevention philosophy, as his solid glove work (he led the NL in fielding percentage at .998 in 2009) and great arm (37% caught stealing rate in his career) can attest.

The Reds are in constant need of starting pitching. Even with the trade to acquire Mat Latos, the rotation is shaky. Bronson Arroyo has been solid thus far, but he was awful last season, leading the NL in home runs allowed with 46 en route to a 5.07 ERA. At 35 years old, he won’t be getting any better. Homer Bailey has yet to live up to his potential, and Mike Leake has been shaky at best this season. If there is one thing the Rays have in abundance, it is starting pitching.

In fact, the Reds could help with another problem for the Rays. While Will Rhymes has played well in his brief time in Tampa, the Rays could use someone to help man third until Evan Longoria returns. Todd Frazier may not be a superstar, but he has a bit of power, and can play third base and the outfield.

Suppose the Rays were to offer Jeff Niemann and Chris Gimenez for Hanigan, Frazier, and prospect J.C. Sulbaran. Despite a hgh ERA, Sulbaran has struck out over a batter an inning in his minor league career, and may be better suited to be groomed as a future closer than as a starter. The Reds would get the starter they desperately need and a backup catcher to let Mesoraco get majority of the playing time. The Rays would get a starting catcher for the next few seasons, a solid piece for their bench, and another pitching prospect with a good, live arm. The Reds would have to at least consider the offer.

Ryan Hanigan would be a nice fit for the Rays, and would help solve a problem in the lineup.