The stove has very quietly begun to heat up for the Red Sox with the news of the Red Sox' offer to the Athletics for Andrew Bailey. On the one hand, this means a great deal for the bullpen situation. Whether you trust Bailey and his arm or not (I am inclined not to), he would be the man expected to take the ninth inning, effectively replacing Jonathan Papelbon. It would be one major problem considered "solved".
But what about the other side of this situation? What about Josh Reddick?
We've spent the last few months living with the assumption that 2012 would start with some combination of Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish manning right field, perhaps with the addition of a right-handed platoon bat. Now, that situation seems a lot less likely. Andrew Bailey is not, after all, the sort of team-changing addition that would justify the departure of a starting position player. Not if the team is happy with having him start.
So then does that mean the Sox aren't?
It wouldn't be terribly surprising. Certainly as much as they were forced to use him during 2011, Reddick was never an ideal option. His approach at the plate, though improved, still didn't fit in with the Sox' organizational approach at the majors. After his incredible hot streak to start the year, he fell off a cliff to end the season with a rather average .335 wOBA, and while his defense grades out positively in many ways, he's had some serious lapses out there that seemed to speak to a lack of concentration.
So if the Sox aren't comfortable with Reddick, then where does that leave them? Earlier in the year they had shown some interest in adding Grady Sizemore before the Indians quickly brought their perennially injured RF back. They have also been linked on-and-off to top free agent Carlos Beltran, who would cost an arm while potentially coming with just one leg of his own.
It's not an ideal market out there by any means, but the Sox' financial situation seems to make big-ticket deals like Beltran less likely. In that situation, Josh Willingham could be the Sox' man whether Reddick is traded or not. While the baseball world has for some reason decided Michael Cuddyer is the more valuable player, Willingham grades out similarly even after a disappointing 2011 season which saw a huge spike in his strikeout rate. While Cuddyer would be more of a sure thing, Willingham could likely come slightly cheaper, and wouldn't make us collectively wish for the good old days of Bill Hall playing the outfield.
Then again, the idea that the Sox could go all-out for a name like Beltran isn't too far-fetched. The Sox' biggest need is obviously in the rotation, where they haven't been linked to many free agents other than C.J. Wilson (on a side note, this would be John Lackey all over again, though that at least might turn out like Lackey was supposed to). If the Sox decide that their best bet for finding starters comes on the trade market, and they don't feel like committing big money to a Ryan Madson, then Beltran could well be the default option for whatever money they have left. And on two years (which has been rumored to be a possibility), Beltran wouldn't even be too terribly risky.
We'll see just how far this Bailey deal goes in the coming days (or even possibly hours), but whether it involves Josh Reddick or not, it's clear we should only be penciling his name in for now.