Boston has perhaps the best front office in baseball. Theo Epstein has shown himself to be a savvy dealer and negotiator, usually taking advantage of the trade deadline to add an extra bat or arm for Terry Francona. He clearly understands the value of things like defense (see: 2004) and how variable a bullpen is, which is exactly why producing fluff like this is both brilliant and transparent.
Daniel Bard is a fantastic arm with an ethereal fastball, but the idea that he is untouchable seems chimerical at best and foolish at worst. Since Epstein took over, he’s shown to be willing to reshuffle his pen at any point and trade just about any pitcher if it comes to that. Bard ranked as the fourth best prospect in the Sox system last winter by Baseball America, look at the other top 10 Sox prospects that happened to be pitchers and their current organization:
2009 – Michael Bowden (BOS), Nick Hagadone (CLE), Bard (BOS), Stolmy Pimentel (BOS)
2008 – Clay Buchholz (BOS), Justin Masterson (CLE), Bowden, Hagadone
2007 – Buchholz, Bowden, Bard, Bryce Cox (B0S), Craig Hansen (PIT), Kris Johnson (BOS)
2006 – Jon Lester (BOS), Jonathan Papelbon (BOS), Hansen, Manny Delcarmen (BOS), Buchholz
2005 – Papelbon, Lester, Anibal Sanchez (FLA)*, Abe Alvarez (Indy Leagues), Delcarmen
Tally: 14 pitchers, 9 in the system, 4 elsewhere, and 1 completely out of MLB. Sanchez technically wasn’t dealt under Epstein, so you could say 8/13 were kept. The idea that Epstein is willing to keep his top young arms stands true, although not to the extent where anyone – especially a reliever – is technically untouchable. Break the list down by pitchers who joined and stayed on the club as relievers and you get: Bard, Masterson, Hansen, Papelbon, Delcarmen. Two of those have been dealt, one is usually a top three reliever in the land, and Delcarmen has been mentioned in trade talks before.
Excuse me for being captain obvious, but the label of untouchable is a great way to boost perceptive value while doing nothing else. A few days ago Derek Zumsteg had a great piece on how the Yankees use their media machine to persuade thinking towards their favor, this same thing applies here in a different facet. The media is going to run wild with this tag and perception and inflate Bard’s worth to the Red Sox and any team.
Maybe the Red Sox truly view Bard as an elite reliever and untouchable, but they would they say so unless they had other intentions in mind?