Oakland continues to part with big-league pitching in an effort to construct a team ready to contend if/when a new ballpark is built, with Buster Olney of ESPN.com reporting that the A’s have traded closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox for outfielder Josh Reddick, first base prospect Miles Head, and pitching prospect Raul Alcantara.
Bailey is just 27 years old, arbitration eligible for the first time in 2012, and under team control through 2014, so much like the A’s trading Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill this move isn’t about money or impending free agency. Instead the A’s have clearly decided that even young, cheap, established MLB players probably won’t be around by the time they’re aiming to be competitive in the AL West.
Boston has been searching for a closer all offseason and Bailey’s arrival means Mark Melancon will serve in a setup role. Bailey has had some injury problems, but through 174 career innings he’s got a 2.07 ERA and 174/49 K/BB ratio, making him one of the majors’ elite bullpen arms.
Reddick had been slated to move into Boston’s starting lineup in right field, replacing free agent J.D. Drew, but now the Red Sox will likely go with Sweeney there while perhaps finding him a platoon partner to face left-handed pitching. Sweeney is a good defensive outfielder with solid on-base skills, but has just 14 homers and a .378 slugging percentage in 472 games.
Had the two sides moved more quickly on a Bailey deal Boston could have turned to a free agent to replace Reddick, but potential targets like Carlos Beltran, Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel, and David DeJesus are all off the market now. Of course, with Ryan Kalish waiting in the wings they may not have wanted to make a multi-year commitment to a veteran anyway.
Reddick cooled down considerably following a great start stepping in for Drew last season, finishing with a .280 batting average and .784 OPS in 87 games at age 24. He doesn’t project as a star based on minor-league numbers that included mediocre batting averages and unspectacular power, but should be a quality everyday player and is under team control through 2016.
Head was a 29th-round pick in 2009, but emerged as a legitimate prospect this past season by hitting .299 with 22 homers and an .887 OPS in 129 games between two levels of Single-A as a 20-year-old. He’s several years from the majors, however, and isn’t considered a top prospect among first basemen.
Alcantara is even further away from the big leagues, spending this past season in rookie-ball, but the 18-year-old right-hander has a 2.72 ERA and 84/20 K/BB ratio in 126 career innings and brings plenty of long-term upside in his 6-foot-3 frame.
To get an elite 27-year-old closer and a useful outfielder for a solid regular and a pair of good but not great low-minors prospects makes this a pretty nice move for the Red Sox. It sure seems like Bailey’s injury history or the abundance of closers on the free agent market depressed his trade value considerably.