It appears that the Boston Red Sox have found their new closer.
More than a month after the Philadelphia Phillies signed former Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox on Wednesday traded for Oakland stopper Andrew Bailey. The Sox also received Ryan Sweeney in the deal, in which Boston gave up outfielder outfielder Josh Reddick and a pair of minor league players.
While Boston obviously thinks Bailey fills a major void in the bullpen — he saved 75 games during the past three seasons — the former Athletic now finds himself in a much less forgiving ballpark.
So will this move work out in Boston’s favor?
As with any pitcher who leaves Oakland, the biggest question is whether Bailey can pitch effectively in a new home park. While Bailey’s ERA is lower on the road during his career, his peripherals tell a slightly different story.
Bailey definitely benefited from pitching in Oakland’s park. Nearly all of his peripherals are worse on the road. Bailey’s low road ERA can be explained by his luck with men on the bases. His strand rate also was drastically higher outside O.co Coliseum.
Despite those struggles, Bailey should be an effective pitcher in the American League East. His road K/9 and BB/9 are good enough to make him a useful addition to the Red Sox bullpen. The elevated home run rate could be a concern, though. Bailey is a flyball pitcher, and Fenway Park will be much less forgiving than the Coliseum.
While Bailey isn’t better than the guy he’s replacing, he comes at a fraction of the price. Bailey is arbitration eligible for the first time in his career — and should receive a hefty raise — but there’s no chance he’ll make anywhere near the $11 million-or-so that Papelbon will make with in Philadelphia next year. Considering the price for closers this off-season, Boston did pretty well in its trade with Oakland — only having to deal Josh Reddick (who some believe is a fourth outfielder) and two prospects.
While it doesn’t look like an overpay for Boston, it’s important to note that Bailey missed time the past two seasons. After throwing 83.1 innings in his rookie year, Bailey has only thrown 90.2 since 2010. His shoulder was a problem in 2010, and a forearm injury put him on the DL at the beginning of last season. While he showed no lingering effects from either injury, his history is concerning.
Reddick might have been the deal’s centerpiece for Oakland, but the Red Sox received a decent replacement in Ryan Sweeney. Sweeney never developed the appropriate power to go with his frame, but he’s a good fourth outfielder who plays solid defense. With his move from Oakland, Sweeney becomes a candidate to play right field in Boston. He displays a pretty extreme platoon split, though, so he should be paired with someone who can hit lefties more effectively. Sweeney might not have Reddick’s upside, but he won’t hurt the Sox in any area, either.
Boil this deal down and the Red Sox swapped fourth outfielders and landed a proven closer for two young prospects. That’s not a bad way for Ben Cherington to start his era in Boston.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.