Mr. Bailey Comes To Boston

As you no doubt heard, the Red Sox were busy yesterday. Ben's Baseball Ops pulled off another in a series of deals to replenish the bullpen after Jonathan Papelbon's departure for Philadelphia and the potential move of Daniel Bard and/or Alfredo Aceves to the rotation. The nitty gritty: Boston traded Josh Reddick and two guys you probably haven't heard of (pitcher Raul Alcantara and first baseman Miles Head) for A's closer Andrew Bailey. Oh, and they got outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who, according to Wikipedia, collects Pontiacs. Like, the cars. Wikipedia: Every Pseudo-Journalist's Source For Useless And Likely Inaccurate Information!

Bailey steps into what will be a completely different Boston bullpen than the one we saw last season. Say good-bye to the top three of Papelbon, Bard, and Aceves. Next season all will be gone or re-purposed. They'll be replaced by Bailey, Melancon, and Jenks. But we'll get to Baily's role in the pen in a bit.

The Give Ups

As 'El Perro del Mar says, you gotta give to get back, and that's true of most everything in life. Love, seal feedings at the zoo, baseball, everything. Andrew Bailey was no different. To get him, the Sox parted with three players, the most prominent of which is outfielder Josh Reddick. Reddick spent substantial time in Boston last season while J.D. Drew was injured and proved mostly up to the task, hitting .280/.327/.457 and playing plus defense in right field. The on-base percentage was low, but that was always Reddick's Achilles Heal and at 24 going on 25 this season it isn't likely to substantially improve. The upside with Reddick is his power and defense. Those skills make him worthy of starting in the big leagues. But his hacktastic ways limit his ceiling. He's a fine player and a cheap one, but with Ryan Kalish in the wings, he was redundant.

After Reddick, the Sox gave up two lottery tickets in Miles Head and Raul Alcantara. Head is a first baseman with moderate power and speed. He split last year between Class A Greenville and High A Salem. Alcantara is a tall projectable pitcher with some speed and control who split last season between the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and Low A Lowell. Both of those skill-sets would equate to valuable players if they were major leaguers, but both aren't particularly close to fulfilling that destiny. Alcantara is at least four years away and Head might be three or more. Both could be good major league players, fringe players, or nothing at all. Such is the way of the low minors prospect.

Further reading...

Bailey The Pitcher (all data from Texas Leaguers)

Like Papelbon before him, Bailey is a fastball pitcher.

He doesn't throw as hard as Paps did -- he averaged 93 mph to Paps 95 mph last year -- but he did generate an above average whiff percentage of 9.3% (ML average was 6%). He doesn't walk a ton of guys (~2.5 BB/9) and he also offers something Papelbon didn't: a curve ball. Bailey doesn't throw the curve super frequently (only 8% of his pitches were curves last year), but he does throw it for strikes (60%). He also features a cutter, though it looks like he may lose bite on that pitch from time to time.

Bailey is a fly ball pitcher, but Papelbon (among others) proved that a someone with that skill set can be an effective pitcher in Fenway, which actually suppresses homers anyway. Going from What Ever They're Calling It Coliseum in Oakland to Fenway may make Bailey's numbers look a bit worse, although going to anywhere from Oakland with the exception of San Diego would probably have a similar effect.

One thing should be made clear: Bailey is a good pitcher but he isn't 2011 Jonathan Papelbon. I'm not sure Jonathan Papelbon is even 2011 Jonathan Papelbon. Despite Robert Andino, Papelbon had an amazing season that would be unfair to expect of Bailey in 2012. That said, if Bailey can stay healthy, he should be very effective.

Further reading...

Injuries

Ah, there is that word. Injuries. If there is anything about the deal that should scare the hell out of you as a Red Sox fan, it is Bailey's injury history. According to Baseball Prospectus's injury database, Bailey has had injuries to his forearm, elbow, trunk, knee, and face. He's also had Tommy John surgery, though that was in college back in 2005. He's also been hit by a truck, mauled by a rabid gerbil, had a tree fall on his left anus, and been eaten by a bear. Twice.

The good news is when he's on the mound he's effective. The bad news is, over the last two seasons he hasn't often been on the mound.

Role In The Pen

Ben Cherington talked a bit about what Bailey's role would be on the 2012 team. In short, he said it would be up to the manager and pitching coach to define roles for their players. Which makes sense. Why name a closer now, especially when you have three guys in Jenks, Melancon, and Bailey who can fulfill the requirements of the role? No need to pen yourself in here. Also, it is possible Daniel Bard ends up back in the bullpen, though this deal makes that a less likely outcome. That said, if Bard does start, it's probably fair to say that Bailey will at least begin the year as the closer.

Winning The Deal

Which ever team gets crowned the winner of this deal will largely depend on Bailey's health. If he throws 80 innings like he did his rookie year, the Sox will have dealt an average and redundant starting outfielder and two lottery tickets for a Proven Closer (trademark). If he throws 35 innings and is on the DL for half the season, the Sox will have dealt three promising young players for the reliever version of Rich Harden. So goes the narrative.

In The End...

This deal was about winning more games in 2012. As nice a player as Josh Reddick is and can be, he was superfluous. Ryan Kalish should be up after a short stint in AAA to get the rust off and Ryan Sweeney et. al can hold down the fort until then. Alcantara and Head, fine prospects both, weren't going to help the Red Sox through the next presidential administration. Bailey fulfills a need for the Red Sox. How well he fulfills it depends on how much he can stay on the mound.

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