It's official: Red Sox acquire Hanrahan in six-player trade

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It's official: Red Sox acquire Hanrahan in six-player trade

UPDATE: Red Sox assistant general manager Brian O'Halloran told media members on Wednesday that Joel Hanrahan will be the team's closer, not Andrew Bailey.

The Red Sox got their closer for Christmas -- okay, a day later -- as they officially acquired Joel Hanrahan from the Pirates on Wednesday as part of a six-player trade.

The Sox sent two of the players they acquired from the Dodgers in last summer's salary dump -- first basemanoutfielder Jerry Sands and infielder Ivan De Jesus -- to Pittsburgh, along with pitchers Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimental. In addition, the Sox acquired infielder Brock Holt in the deal.

Hanrahan, 31, is the centerpiece of the trade. He's a two-time All-Star who recorded the fourth-highest total of saves (76) in the National League over the last two seasons, while compiling a 2.24 ERA and holding opponents to a .205 average against (.187 in 2012). Since becoming a full-time reliever in 2008, Hanrahan has struck out 393 batters in 346 13 innings, an average of 10.2 strikeouts per 9.0 innings.

A second-round draft choice of the Dodgers in 2000, Hanrahan was signed as a minor-league free agent by the Nationals after the 2006 season and made his big-league debut in '07. He was traded to the Pirates in '09.

Hanrahan has one year remaining on his contract and is eligible to become a free agent after the 2013 season.

Melancon, one of the players headed to Pittsburgh, was a candidate to serve as Boston's closer in 2012 when he was acquired from Houston in a trade that sent Jed Lowrie to the Astros. But he fell back into a setup role when the Sox picked up Andrew Bailey from the A's, then pitched himself out of Boston's plan with a dismal '12 season (0-2, 1 save, 6.20 ERA in 45 innings). None of the other players traded by the Sox, save for possibly Pimental, is seen as having anything more than fringe major-league potential.

Holt, 24, is a lifetime .317 hitter in four minor-league seasons. A shortstopsecond baseman, he hit .292 (19-for-65) in 24 games with the Pirates at the end of last seson.

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

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Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.

Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, though. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.