Finally! After months of relative dormancy, it appears that GM Ben Cherington and the Red Sox have made a transaction of some significance. Buster Olney of ESPN is reporting that the team has acquired closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney from the Oakland A’s in exchange for Josh Reddick and minor league players Miles Head and Raul Alcantara. In light of the hauls other young pitchers like Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Mat Latos have commanded in trades this offseason, the Red Sox look like they have made a very nice deal.
Bailey will be just 27 at the start of the 2012 season, and is a former Rookie of the Year winner, who has 75 saves, a 2.07 ERA, and exactly one strikeout per inning over his first three major league seasons. Most importantly, he is under team control for three more seasons, and easily slides into the vacant closer role, allowing Mark Melancon and Bobby Jenks to settle into defined set-up roles. In the high priced world of the American League East, this is a quality move, on both talent and financial levels.
Ryan Sweeney is a decent throw-in for the Red Sox. He is a light hitting, good fielding outfielder, who can play all three positions. He won’t be a star or probably even play that much, but he will fit nicely as a late inning defensive replacement and 5th outfielder.
The players the Red Sox gave up were all eminently expendable. Reddick has improved with each year, but projects as nothing more than an average major league regular. The Red Sox figure to platoon Ryan Kalish (an all-around better version of Kalish) and possibly Mike Aviles in right field this coming season.
Miles Head is a young first baseman in the lower levels of the Boston system, who hit .299 with 22 home runs in 2011. However, with Adrian Gonzalez locked up for the next seven seasons, Head was never going to make it in Boston. Using him in a deal like this is a wise allocation of resources.
Raul Alcantara is the most intriguing piece that the Red Sox relinquish in this trade. He is a raw 19 year old right handed pitcher from the Dominican who already throws in the low-to-mid 90’s, though with reportedly shaky command. Despite only appearing in 26 games over his first two professional seasons, he has already shown excellent control (84 strikeouts and 20 walks in 125.1 innings) and could develop into a special pitcher if everything goes right. But given the long road expected for his development, the Red Sox could afford to include him in this trade.
After constantly being picked at by critics (including myself), Ben Cherington has come up big with this trade. He has turned raw prospects and a spare part into a quality major league closer and a nice piece for his bench. The trade not only solidifies the Red Sox bullpen, but it dramatically decreases pressure on Daniel Bard, who will now have the luxury of a much longer leash in the starting rotation, without the specter of being returned to the back of the bullpen looming over his head.
Cherington has transformed this offseason from among the quietest in recent memory, to one that will be remembered for the dirt cheap quality he brought to the team. Kudos to him for being more patient and apparently smarter than the rest of us, and waiting until the right moment came along to make his move. I had said that Cherington needed a signature moment or transaction to separate himself from the shadow of Theo Epstein. I think he may have finally done that.