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…Wherein Pessimism Is Tempered

I’ve yet to talk to The Goog, who is notoriously more of a bearish Red Sox fan (yet, ironically, less excited about Theo Epstein’s Cubs) than myself, but let’s start with the obvious today: the Red Sox just made their big move, and it’s for a guy who has a history of closing games. It does nothing to improve their gaping rotation holes, their lack of right-handed hitting outfielders, or the ever-present danger of Kevin Youkilis literally exploding while attempting to play third base.  Andrew Bailey’s arrival almost surely means that the Daniel Bard-as-starter experiment will continue on past offseason rhetoric and into some ugly spring training outings.

Bailey, 27, is an injury risk (throwing only 90 innings over the last two years), but is without question a better pitcher than any of Boston’s potential Bardless bullpen. More importantly, he’s heading to arbitration for the first time this winter – his salary shouldn’t spike highly enough to outweigh the value he brings to the team, and he allows the Red Sox flexibility to continue seeking rotation help.  At worst, he’s a very good bullpen arm to throw into the mix; if he’s healthy, he could bring the team a more cost-effective (albeit not as elitely talented) closing solution than Jon Papelbon.

Ultimately, however, the inability to be blown away by Bailey himself is countered by the specifics of the trade.  The big piece surrendered, Josh Reddick, is apt to be divisive among Red Sox fans.  He carried a slumping offense at times during 2011, and it’s hard to forget the talent he showed when he was good.  But looking at the numbers, it’s just as easy to suddenly remember the months of mediocrity, and conclude that the Red Sox will not regret his absence.  The other pieces of the deal include RHP Raul Alcantara, whose 7.3 strikeouts per 9 innings in short-season A-ball don’t suggest a future big-league career, and infielder Miles Head, who was listed as a 3B in some reports of the deal, but exclusively played first for three A-level teams in the past two years.

A package of Reddick – likely to be a passable RF at worst – and two can-miss prospects-by-name-only for Bailey seems fair enough. The Red Sox additionally received OF Ryan Sweeney, whose defensive numbers are confusingly inconsistent and power nonexistent, but who has upside in the field and can take a walk. He certainly shouldn’t be the starting RF, but that concern would have applied to Reddick as well; at worst, Sweeney helps mitigate the loss of OF depth and can let Ryan Kalish stay at AAA until he actually produces in a way that indicates his shoulder is healthy. There’s still a lot of work to be done improving this club, but Boston has added another good pitcher without a serious blow to the 2012 roster or the farm system.

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  1. December 28, 2011 at 8:18 PM

    I love this trade. Bailey is a really good reliever, and the combination of him and Bard at the back of the pen (once, you know, the team remembers why they moved Bard out of the rotation way back in 2007), along with Melancon and (dare I dream?) Jenks, should be one of the best in the AL.

    Plus, it allows me to start seriously entertaining hopes that JD Drew might come back!

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