“The Red Sox got their closer” – the phrase that will be in every lede about the Red Sox for the next 24 hours. The real headline though is that the Red Sox got their bullpen, and they didn’t give up a top prospect or a projected starter in the process. In Mark Melancon and the freshly-acquired Andrew Bailey, the Red Sox have more than made up for the loss of Jonathan Papelbon. New Sox GM Ben Cherington has made two very nice deals to replenish the bullpen, dealing Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick, Kyle Weiland, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara for a solid new set-up man, a talented closer, and a 4th outfielder in Ryan Sweeney. The Sox gave up an injury-prone, mediocre defensive shortstop, a 4th outfielder who had a very fluky run for a month or so in the majors, a AAAA pitcher, and two guys who aren’t big enough talents or close enough to the majors to really project. For a team that wants to contend this season, that’s a favorable price tag.
Now the only real question mark that remains this off-season is filling the starting rotation. I don’t think that question is answered with Daniel Bard. The Sox are said to be toying with the idea of sending Bard into the fiery depths of the starting rotation, a place that nearly crushed his career four years back. After walking 78 batters in 75 1/3 innings as a starter in 2007 in Single A, Bard transitioned to the bullpen, where he has performed like one of the better relievers in the majors over the past two seasons.
So why not keep him there? Most people probably can’t imagine he’d have a problem transitioning back to a relief role if he fails as a starter in spring training, but it’s not impossible. Whatever demons turned him from a first-round talent to a complete bust should be kept as far away as possible, especially after watching his right shoulder almost come flying off its hinges last September. Do they really want to chance reawakening those demons? [Kevin McAllister]I don’t think so.[/Kevin McAllister]
There are still paths out there for the Red Sox to go down in search of a starting pitcher, and I’m going to explore those in the very near future (if they don’t run out and sign some chump like Joe Saunders over the weekend). Cherington avoided the high costs of free agent closers and showed enough patience to land the right guys for the bullpen at the right price (unlike some other team). These moves have instilled some faith (from me at least) that he can do the same for the final rotation spot. For now though, Sox fans can envision a Melancon-Bard-Bailey back of the bullpen and expect this year’s bullpen to pick up right where 2010’s left off. Heck, even casual fans will be happy, knowing there are two “closers” in the bullpen. Now that’s some good PR.