The Oakland A's efforts to cut current expenses, avoid future expenses, and acquire all the cheap talent they can ahead of their reported move to San Jose continued on Wednesday as they shipped 27-year-old closer Andrew Bailey to the Boston Red Sox.
It's a trade we've been anticipating for several weeks now — even before general manager Billy Beane shipped Trevor Cahill to Arizona and Gio Gonzalez to Washington — but was finally made official on Wednesday with ESPN's Buster Olney first reporting the deal. We later learned that outfielder Ryan Sweeney was also heading to Boston with Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick, first base prospect Miles Head, and pitching prospect Raul Alcantara coming back to Oakland.
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That will not be celebrated as a great return for Oakland. Both prospects are years away from cracking a major league roster and are far from surefire bets to pan out. But given Bailey's injury history, the loaded closer's market, and Oakland's desire to go cheap at all costs, a lesser return is to be expected.
As far as Boston goes, this deal helps us make better sense of their bullpen heading into 2012. Bailey will obviously handle the closing duties, moving Mark Melancon, their recent acquisition from the Houston Astros, into a more comfortable setup role. It also gives them the flexibility to move Daniel Bard into the starting rotation.
We've already heard manager Bobby Valentine state Bard would be given an opportunity to win a spot in their rotation next spring. New general manager Ben Cherington reiterated that after the trade became official. With Bailey now on board, though, you have to figure Bard will have a longer leash in his starting audition, as Valentine will be less likely to prematurely end the experiment with the key roles in his bullpen filled.
Of course all of this could change if an injury occurs, but as Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe pointed out on Twitter, as we stand Cherington has done a nice job retooling the bullpen in wake of Jonathan Papelbon's departure. For the price of Reddick, Jed Lowrie, Kyle Weiland, and two minor leaguers, the Red Sox have acquired an eighth and ninth inning duo in Melancon and Bailey that could anchor their bullpen for the next three or four years.
I'd say that's impressive start to Cherington's tenure in the big chair. But now comes a bigger test and a better question. What can he pull off to help solidify their starting rotation between now and April?
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