Daniel Bard

Daniel Bard can be the new Derek Lowe for Boston

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And that’s meant in a good way.

Derek Lowe saved 42 games for the Red Sox in 2000 and then struggled some the next year, losing his closer’s role in the process. The Red Sox opted to try him as a starter at the end of the season, and when he transitioned into that role fully in 2002, he nearly won a Cy Young Award. He finished 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA in 219 2/3 innings that season, and while he was never so good again, he’s been a quality starting pitcher for a decade now.

This isn’t the first time since that the Red Sox have tried to turn one of their most important relievers into a starting pitcher. They groomed Jonathan Papelbon as a starter in the spring of 2007, only to shift him back to the pen late in the spring. Now they want to try it again with Daniel Bard, a starting pitcher in college who only found success in the minors after being moved to the pen.

That’s the scary part about the transition. Bard was a complete bust after one year in the Boston system, going 3-7 with a 7.08 ERA and a 47/78 K/BB ratio in 75 innings in his 22 starts in 2007. The Red Sox moved him to the pen the next spring and he thrived right away. He debuted in the majors in 2009 and has a 2.88 ERA and a 213/76 K/BB ratio in 197 innings since.

But, really, there’s no reason to think he lost in 2007 because he was starting. He was a bust because his mechanics were terrible, and he also seemed intimidated by the crazy hitting environment at Lancaster, the toughest place to pitch in the minors.

Perhaps that doesn’t speak well of Bard’s mental toughness, but 2007 was five years ago now. He’s succeeded at the highest level of competition. Perhaps even more important, he’s a far more complete pitcher now than he was when he was drafted. His slider has turned into a very good second pitch, and his changeup has also come a long way, even though he doesn’t get to use it too much as a reliever.

Obviously, Bard isn’t Lowe. Lowe has always relied on a sinker to get outs. Bard is still going to try to overpower hitters, even though his velocity figures to decline from 96-99 mph as a reliever to 93-97 mph as a starter.

But Bard should be plenty good as a starting pitcher, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make the same kind of impact C.J. Wilson did in Texas when he made the conversion two years ago. The Red Sox could always change their minds later and throw him back in the pen as a setup man or a closer. But if there’s ever a time to move him, this is it, and it would make sense to give him at least a few months to prove himself.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.

Cardinals, Dexter Fowler agree to a five-year, $82 million deal

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.

The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.

For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.