Just one week from the deadline to tender contracts, John Farrell is acting like Alfredo Aceves is here to stay. Has the troubled reliever really managed to keep his job?
When the book finally closed on the 2012 Red Sox, it seemed likely that it had closed on Alfredo Aceves' tenure with the team as well. Taken out of the long relief role, Aceves imploded both on and off the field, engaging in open conflict with Bobby Valentine and allowing runs left and right as his stock came crashing to Earth. Nothing was certain yet, but many assumed that if he couldn't be traded, the Sox would simply dump him.
Now, however, it's starting to look like Aceves could remain. The deadline to set the 40-man roster passed with guys like Josh Fields and Jeremy Hazelbaker left off while Alfredo stayed on, and now just one week from the deadline to non-tender arbitration-eligible players, John Farrell seems to have laid out a plan on WEEI for dealing with the reliever:
Not knowing it first hand but seeing it and talking to others of what's taken place, I think that the most important thing is that expectations are outlined with him, and I, for one, [need to] be very consistent with him. There are going to be some things that are non-negotiable. If certain situations arise, consequences may exist. Coming in with fresh eyes on him, being in the same uniform, I certainly want to give the benefit of the doubt to the situation, knowing that there's some history here, but I think it's important to be very candid and upfront here.
On the one hand, it's hard to really blame someone for not getting along with Bobby Valentine. The man was a wreck, after all, and given how many of us spent the season hating his guys, it might touch on the hypocritical to get too down on Aceves for the situation that developed.
On the other hand, there's plenty of reasons to be upset with Aceves outside of just that. We always have to be careful throwing around words like "entitled" when we don't have much information on what happened behind-the-scenes, but it's kind of hard not to draw the conclusion that Aceves was not guiltless in this whole thing. Having pushed hard for a starting job he failed to earn in the spring, Aceves was given the closing role in what many saw as an attempt to keep him happy after missing out on the rotation. And, when Aceves failed miserably in that role, he managed to get himself suspended with his response to being replaced. That he then spent the rest of the season pointedly ignoring Valentine didn't really help appearances.
Of course, even forgetting all that, there's the fact that Aceves was just plain awful. A 5.36 ERA is bad for a starter, and simply beyond the pale for a reliever. While he actually managed to bump up his strikeout numbers some, Aceves fell dramatically back to earth as he saw his BABIP jump to more reasonable levels (.290 from .231 the year before).
As much as we might want to look back at 2011 and say that the possibility is there for Aceves to be good, we really have to be cautious with small sample sizes. Over the course of his career, Aceves has only thrown 324 innings in the majors, and for all that his career ERA of 3.56 is decent for a reliever, his peripherals don't look nearly so good, and even if you give him credit for a career BABIP of .249, he's still a fly ball pitcher trying to make it in Fenway Park. A wild one at that.
There's plenty of teams out there that could use a guy like Aceves. He's an interesting flyer to take in the bullpen and possibly even the rotation if you haven't seen his penchant for beaning guys when starting. But the Red Sox have zero space in the bullpen. Neither Andrew Bailey or Mark Melancon is going to just be dropped, however bad they were last year. Junichi Tazawa and Craig Breslow are absolute locks, and Scott Atchison shouldn't be far behind after last year. Andrew Miller seems to have found his place as a LOOGY if nothing else. And then there's Franklin Morales and Clayton Mortensen; neither can be stowed away with any ease, and they certainly are worth keeping around more than Aceves. That's eight guys even forgetting about Daniel Bard.
Even just based on baseball concerns it doesn't seem like there's much room on the team for Alfredo Aceves. Add in the awfulness that happened off the field, and the decision to let him go seems even easier. Maybe the team is holding out for a trade in the next week, but if that doesn't happen it's not even worth the arbitration money to keep him around through spring training.