The Red Sox have finally filled their void at closer.
After weeks of negotiations with the Athletics, the team acquired closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney from the A's in exchange for outfielder Josh Reddick and prospects Miles Head and Raul Alcantera on Wednesday.
"Andrew is a proven, top-quality closer in the American League," general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday. "He's done it for three years in the American League, and saw a lot of success. He's converted a very high percentage of his opportunities. He's got good stuff. We really like his make-up for Boston."
Bailey, 27, is a two-time American League All-Star and was recognized as the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year. Through three seasons, he has converted 75 of 84 save chances and will be the heir apparent to Jonathan Papelbon, who signed with the Phillies earlier this offseason.
But the acquisition comes with a caveat: Bailey's injury-prone history. Before entering the majors, the pitcher underwent Tommy John surgery after pitching just 42 innings at Wagner University.
Since March 2010, the closer has been sidelined on four different occasions with injuries, battling lateral epicondylitis, an intercostal strain, elbow inflammation and a forearm strain. He also underwent a minor procedure on his knee.
Despite missing nearly two months of time last season, Bailey still recorded 24 saves and posted a 3.24 ERA. Now, just a month and a half away from spring training, he insists there are no roadblocks.
"I'm feeling good," Bailey said. "To be honest with you, this is my first healthy offseason I've had since I've been in the big leagues?That being said, this is the first time I've been healthy and not had to rehab anything into spring training.
"I've been able to get after it from day one and so far ?? knock on wood ?? I'm healthy, strong and just looking forward to spring training."
A New Jersey native, Bailey is no stranger to pitching under the spotlight of the East Coast. Because of the proximity to Boston, the closer expressed excitement about joining the rivalry against New York and the chance of closing in Fenway Park.
"There's nothing like the atmosphere of running into the game from the bullpen at Fenway Park. You can't put it into words," said Bailey on Wednesday night. "It's something that I look forward to doing day in and day out in a Red Sox uniform. Fenway is the greatest stadium in baseball."
Boston's swap likely solidifies Daniel Bard or Alfredo Aceves' spot in the starting rotation. Bard was initially tapped as a viable replacement for Papelbon, but the Red Sox opted to stretch him out as a starter for the spring.
Looking to add depth, Cherington acquired reliever Mark Melancon ?? who notched 20 saves in 2011 ?? from the Astros earlier this month. While Melancon will still compete for the closing job, Cherington noted that Bailey had the advantage.
"We believe both are fully capable of doing it," Cherington said. "Bailey's been doing it for a little bit longer, so perhaps he goes in with the leg up. But we'll leave those decisions to Bobby [Valentine] and Bob McClure for spring training."
The departure of Reddick leaves an opening in right field. Last season, the 24-year-old homered seven times and knocked in 28 RBIs to go with his .280 batting average, but Cherington mentioned Mike Aviles as a possible replacement.
In addition to receiving Reddick, Athletics will receive two raw youngsters in Head and Alcantera. Head, a 20-year-old first baseman, hit .299/.372/.515 between his stints in Greenville and Salem. Alcantera, 19, started 13 games for Gulf Coast League Red Sox and the Lowell Spinners, going 1-4 with a 2.20 ERA and 50 strikeouts.
Photo via Flickr/JL Photog
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