Daniel Bard returning to the majors in 2020 after seven years away from a big league mound was an amazing story.
Now, imagine if Bard finally returns to where it all began.
Although it sounds like something from a movie, there’s legitimate reason to believe the Boston Red Sox — the team that drafted Bard in 2006 — could consider trading for the Colorado Rockies closer at some point during the 2022 Major League Baseball season.
We’re just spitballing, of course, but Bard would fill an obvious need for Boston — at the back end of the bullpen — and presumably could be acquired at a relatively reasonable cost given he’s slated to become a free agent this winter.
The asking price for relievers always is heightened around the MLB trade deadline, based on supply and demand. But he’s certainly a cheaper alternative to high-end pitchers who are under club control beyond this season. And it’s probably just a matter of time before the Rockies shop the hard-throwing right-hander, seeing as Colorado (30-38) entered Wednesday in last place in the National League West.
So, what exactly would the Red Sox be acquiring in Bard, who spent five seasons with Boston from 2009 to 2013 before his career temporarily unraveled, leading to a unique baseball odyssey?
Well, it’s tough to tell since he was rather inconsistent in 2021, with his second-half numbers taking a serious hit thanks to an abysmal August. He’s been excellent in 2022, though, flashing exactly the type of profile befitting a late-inning, high-leverage arm.
Bard hasn’t allowed an earned run since May 16, a span of 12 appearances (14 innings) in which he has struck out 16 while limiting opposing hitters to an .091 average and a .340 OPS. The impressive stretch has lowered his ERA from 4.05 to 1.98, and there are some underlying metrics that also paint the soon-to-be-37-year-old in a favorable light.
According to Baseball Savant, among the 308 pitchers with at least 100 batters faced as of Wednesday, Bard ranks first in expected batting average (.145), third in expected slugging percentage (.241) and 14th in expected on-base percentage (.261).
According to FanGraphs, among the 192 relievers with at least 20 innings pitched as of Wednesday, Bard ranks 30th in strikeout rate (31.5%), 27th in hard-hit rate (21.3%) and 34th in ground-ball rate (53.3%), a profile that, in theory, should play well in the hitter-friendly confines of Fenway Park so long as he limits the number of walks issued.
The free passes might be Bard’s biggest bugaboo. He also struggled against left-handed hitters in 2021, although he’s cleaned up that aspect of his game in 2022. But Red Sox manager Alex Cora still is tinkering with his bullpen in search of a successful formula. While Tanner Houck recently grabbed hold of Boston’s closer role, the bridge to him remains very much under construction.
Bard was a dominant late-inning reliever for Boston from 2009 to 2011, after which he dealt with the yips amid a failed transition to the rotation and ultimately bounced around with various organizations while trying to recapture the magic. More than a decade later, he could be that guy again.
If nothing else, it’s worth calling the Rockies to see what it would take to put Bard back in a Red Sox uniform as he enters the latter stages of his baseball career. What a story it would be.