Analyzing the Red Sox-A’s Trade

Athletics trade RHP Andrew Bailey and OF Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox for OF Josh Reddick, minor league 1B Miles Head and minor league RHP Raul Alcantara.

For the Red Sox:

After trading for Mark Melancon and claiming to be comfortable with him as their closer, the Red Sox were still loitering around Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero and trying to trade for Bailey and Gio Gonzalez.

They needed a legitimate closer and starting help. With the trades for Melancon and Bailey, they accomplished both.

In a more understated fashion than the Rangers maneuver of signing Joe Nathan and shifting closer Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation, the Red Sox are going to attempt something similar with Daniel Bard. Bard was a starter in the minors, struggled when given the chance to close and had a brief slump at the end of the 2011 season as the set-up man that cost the club dearly during their September collapse. He’s 26 and in the same vein of limiting his innings as a starter, the Red Sox were able to build up his tolerance without indulging in the damaging charade the Yankees did with Joba Chamberlain; as he enters his prime years, Bard will be able to give them 180 innings and slowly build until he’s a legitimate, 200+ inning starter.

Of course, that’s contingent on him being good at it. Bard has a power fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s; a slider and a changeup—there’s no reason to think he won’t transition well to the rotation.

I wouldn’t trust Melancon as my closer. Bailey is a two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year who throws strikes, doesn’t allow many homers and strikes out around a batter-per-inning; the only concern with him is his troublesome elbow, but for two low-level minor leaguers and an extra outfielder, he’s worth it as a far cheaper alternative to the free agents that are still on the market.

Sweeney is two years older than Reddick (almost to the day) and is an up-the-middle/opposite field hitter who might benefit from the Green Monster. Reddick is better defensively and Sweeney is a more proven big league player.

As a win-now team with a new, veteran manager and clubhouse loaded with veterans, the two minor leaguers the Red Sox surrendered weren’t going to help this current group, so it made sense to deal them.

For the Athletics:

I went into detail about Billy Beane’s latest rebuild in my last posting.

Strategy aside, the return for Bailey seems a bit short. Two low-level minor leaguers for an in-demand, All Star closer? Elbow problems or not, the A’s could’ve held out and waited to see if something better came along.

Head will be 21 in May and is reminiscent of the return to the Moneyball storyline of slightly out-of-shape players who hit for power and get on base. He was a 26th round draft pick in 2009.

Alcantara has good numbers in the low minors, but he just turned 19.

Who knows?

Neither is close to the big leagues.

Reddick is an extra player who might blossom if given the opportunity to play regularly. He’s shown good pop in the minors and some speed. Truthfully, what difference does it make to the A’s whether they play Reddick every day and he turns out to be better suited as a fourth outfielder? Other than to raid them for veteran, mid-season help, no one’s paying much attention to them anyway.

This trade suits the purposes of both sides although at first glance the advantage goes to the Red Sox. The Red Sox get their closer; the A’s clear out another veteran for the future (somewhere off in the distance, presumably in San Jose).

On the “ridiculous analysis” front, in this posting on CBS Sports, Jon Heyman said the following:

All in all, this was new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington’s finest moment as GM(…)

Um. Yeah. I tend to agree. After being on the job a little over two months, it’s his finest moment just ahead of getting a new chair for his office and not drooling on himself during dinner at the winter meetings.

Bravo.

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  1. #1 by Matt on December 29, 2011 - 9:59 pm

    When I saw your tweet I thought for sure you’d be posting on the Astros interview with Keith Law for a front office position. Needless to say I’m anticipating your take on this.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/12/astros-interview-keith-law.html

    • #2 by admin on December 30, 2011 - 12:06 am

      I am absolutely gonna address it.

  2. #3 by Todd Boss on December 29, 2011 - 10:32 pm

    I know you’re not a Beane fan, but to me clearly this move was about 2 things. 1: dumping salary. 2. repeating his pattern of trading away closers. Bailey was 1st year arb-eligible and probably makes somewhere in the 3.5-5M range of salary (figuring 40% of the going rate for all-star closers on the FA market to be roughly Papelbon’s $12.5M aav contract for a first year eligible, puts you exactly at $5M/year for arb-1 year).

    Beane severely undervalues closers, as do I, and he couldn’t stand to pay a reliever arm that much. So for him it was addition by subtraction. He’s pulled this move before; develop a young closer, then flip him for more talent. That it played into his overriding theme this off-season ( to get as close to a $25M payroll as possible) was coincidental.

    I did a bit of research: under Beane’s tenure here’s the A’s closer each year and how they departed the team:

    2009-11: Andrew Bailey; traded for prospects to Boston
    2005-8: Huston Street: traded to Colorado for Matt Holliday (in a god-awful trade that included CarGo)
    2004: Octavio Dotel: granted FA in 2005
    2003: Keith Foulke: granted FA in 2003.
    2002: Billy Koch: Traded for Foulke and others in 2003
    2000-1: Jason Isringhausen: granted FA in 2001
    1998-9: Billy Taylor: traded for Isringhausen

    So four times now he’s taken a younger closer and flipped him for more players. Ironically he’s stopped trading young closers for older ones (as he did with both Taylor and Koch), and clearly under sold his prospect generation machine for the 2004 season (ironically, exactly when his college-heavy moneyball draft should have been matriculating to the majors, yet another indication of the failure of that draft and the complete hypocrasy of the book), then worked Street and Bailey for several years each before turning them into needed pieces.

    For me its no surprise Bailey was traded but I do agree with you that Beane should have gotten a bit more.

    • #4 by admin on December 30, 2011 - 2:32 am

      It’s not that I’m not a Beane fan; it’s more that I’m not a fan of the way he’s been portrayed and has taken as much advantage of that characterization as much as humanly possible while acting as if he’s just caught up in a wave he had nothing to do with.
      Regarding the value of a closer, I’m not that big a fan of Andrew Bailey, but as we’ve discussed before, it comes down to team needs and value to the team.
      The Red Sox needed a closer but, understandably, didn’t want to pay the freight to keep Jonathan Papelbon; in the interests of contending and making sure they didn’t repeat the same mistake they made in 2003 by going into the season without someone who could do the job, they traded for a Mark Melancon, still had Daniel Bard if they were unable to get a Bailey or have Ryan Madson or Francisco Cordero fall into their laps for a 2-year contract. It wouldn’t have been ideal, but would’ve been workable. Now, with Bailey, they have the advantage of not having to use Melancon to close and can move Bard into the starting rotation, lessening the need to find a starting pitcher on the market.
      As much as stat people try to wash away 2003 as if the magic number of “teams won 95% of games in which they led going into the ninth inning regardless of closer”, the Red Sox lack of a reliable and designated short reliever was a problem that year and it lasted from the beginning of the season through the traumatic ending at Yankee Stadium. If they’d had someone, anyone they could trust and bagged that closer-by-committee nonsense, they might’ve avoided the Yankees entirely that October.
      Their actions following the season admitted the mistake (even if they never actually came out and said it was a mistake) when they signed Keith Foulke and got one productive year from him and a spate of subsequent injuries for the rest of his contract and $20 million; I don’t think one person with the Red Sox will say it wasn’t worth it for the title.
      This situation wasn’t “pump and dump” as you suggest—they did have instances of doing that and they worked out like Taylor (that was a train crash for the Mets); Street was a first round draft choice; they spent money on Fuentes and wound up demoting him at mid-season. In Moneyball, it was expressly said that you shouldn’t waste a first round pick on a reliever when there are starters available nor should you pay for a Fuentes-type when you can create a closer. They were trying to win in 2011 and beefed up the bullpen and the bullpen was mostly good last season; their problem was offensive and a manager whom the players loathed and Beane refused to fire for the subjective reason of friendship.
      With Bailey, there were several factors for which I’ll give Beane a pass on dealing him for this package. 1) the pitcher’s elbow in a giant question mark and if Beane had waited until next July, there’s a chance it blows before then—then he’ll be paying him for nothing; 2) what does this A’s team need a decent closer for? You will absolutely see a pump-and-dump with his closer(s) next season; in fact, don’t be surprised if they go with a “dual-headed closer” of lefty Brian Fuentes and righty Grant Balfour and trade them both as closers—I’ll be impressed if he pulls that off; and 3) the market is still flooded and Beane had the one thing that teams who don’t want to spend on Madson or Cordero coveted—a cheap alternative who was under team control for the foreseeable future and is good when he’s healthy.
      Each situation is different. Beane might’ve rolled the dice and hoped to get more for Bailey, but this trade was thoroughly understandable from his and the Red Sox points-of-view.

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