Sox targeting Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan?

Could Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan end up bolstering Boston's bullpen? Troy Taormina/US Presswire

BOSTON -- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said Wednesday he was working on a number of fronts to improve the ballclub, and that evidently includes conversations with the Pittsburgh Pirates regarding closer Joel Hanrahan.

Multiple sources confirmed that the Sox and Pirates have had discussions regarding Hanrahan, who saved a total of 76 games over the last two seasons for the Pirates and is a year away from free agency. With incumbent closer Andrew Bailey still a question mark after a season in which he was injured for most of the year, then pitched ineffectively, it makes sense that the Sox would explore bullpen upgrades.

But Pittsburgh is looking for pitching, primarily starters, and one major league source said Pittsburgh is seeking a "significant return" for Hanrahan, an All-Star in each of the last two seasons. He earned $4.1 million in 2012 and can expect a significant bump in salary arbitration.

Bailey, who was paid $3.9 million in 2012, is entering his second year of salary arbitration and can expect only a slight bump -- if that -- after a season in which he recorded just six saves and had a 7.04 ERA. Bailey is not eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season, so it's not out of the question that the Sox would make him part of the package they would offer in return.

Boston's rotation would appear to be set with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey and Felix Doubront, so it's possible the Sox could offer left-hander Franklin Morales or right-hander Alfredo Aceves, or tap into their inventory of young arms, offering a Brandon Workman or Anthony Ranaudo. But that's speculation.

The Dodgers also have considerable interest in Hanrahan, and could offer proven starters like Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang in return.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com was the first to report of Boston's interest in Hanrahan.