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Matt Albers: Red Sox Bullpen Lock, Or Trading Chip?

Recently, it's looked like Matt Albers has all but locked up a spot in the Red Sox' bullpen. Sporting a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings, Albers has yet to allow a walk while accumulating 11 strikeouts. To say these are impressive numbers would be an understatement.

As is, the team does not have any better option for the last few spots in the pen, discounting concerns of loyalty to Tim Wakefield, Scott Atchison, and Hideki Okajima. While ten innings is a small sample size, to be sure, it's still around a sixth of a season for a reliever like Albers, and the former Oriole not allowing a single walk in a period of time that would usually have resulted in four or five in years past makes for a fairly convincing statement.

The Red Sox also do not have the luxury of sending Albers to the minor leagues like they do with Alfredo Aceves and Matt Fox (who has already been assigned to Pawtucket). They have to either let him stick with the major league team, or let him walk to find another organization wiling to pick up on his strong spring. Or, of course, they could always trade him now.

NECN's Sean McAdam has heard that that is a very real possibility, and expects the calls to start flowing soon. It doesn't seem likely that this is just a matter of the Sox trying to get any small value they can out of a lame-duck player like the Julio Lugo trade back in 2009. While the Sox' bullpen is much improved this year, it's still a far cry from being a surefire positive. With Jonathan Papelbon looking the worst he ever has, and Dan Wheeler sort of a middle-of-the-road option, having backups like Albers is by no means insignificant to the team.

While they could trade him for a decent prospect or someone they expect to play a role on the 2011 team, for now, it might be best to just give Albers the shot he has earned.