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December 29, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Bailing Out of Oakland

by R.J. Anderson and Kevin Goldstein

IN THIS ISSUE

American League

BOSTON RED SOX
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Acquired RHP Andrew Bailey and OF-L Ryan Sweeney from the Athletics for OF-L Josh Reddick, 3B-R Miles Head, and RHP Raul Alcantara. [12/28]

Sorry, Mark Melancon, but Ben Cherington just ruined your best pick-up line.

After spending four years at Wagner College (in New York), including one rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Bailey entered the Athletics’ organization as a sixth-round pick in 2006. He shot through the system, reaching the majors in just his third full season and becoming the team’s closer shortly thereafter. He finished the 2009 season by winning the Rookie of the Year award after tossing more than 80 innings with a 1.84 earned run average.

Bailey’s body has betrayed him in the two seasons since. An intercostal strain and right elbow surgery (to remove loose bodies) took him out of action in 2010, and a forearm strain sidelined him for two months in 2011. When available to pitch, Bailey still did his thing—to the tune of a 2.28 earned run average and a 3.32 strikeout-to-walk ratio—but threw just 90 2/3 innings combined after a workhorse-like debut.

The rare Athletics pitcher with a better earned run average on the road than at home, Bailey’s component measures suggest he did pitch better within Oakland’s cavernous park. In about nine more innings at home, Bailey fanned nearly 40 more batters, walked 11 fewer, and gave up three fewer home runs than he did on the road. Given the sample sizes involved, there is no reason to believe Bailey is more likely to resemble one half more than the other, although a move to Fenway Park figures to hurt his surface-level statistics.

Even after becoming arbitration-eligible this offseason, Bailey stands to earn paychecks well below the market value for proven closers. That and the allure of having two more cost-controlled seasons offsets some of the injury risk. Should Bailey stay healthy, he and Melancon could give Boston a nice one-two punch at reduced rates—perhaps giving the team financial flexibility to upgrade elsewhere, or at the very least, the ability to move Daniel Bard to the rotation.

Sweeney is the auxiliary piece in the trade, but one who could start for the Red Sox in right field. He lacks the power commonly associated with a corner position and should never see a left-handed pitcher in a non-blowout situation, but his glove is a plus and he provides some offensive value against righties. If Boston chooses instead to acquire an everyday right fielder, there are worse fourth outfielders than Sweeney floating around. 

Trading for Bailey and Sweeney makes sense given Boston’s win-now mindset and roster holes. Neither is the most glamorous solution at his position, but one can appreciate Cherington’s cost-conscious approach.—R.J. Anderson

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Acquired OF-L Josh Reddick, 3B-R Miles Head, and RHP Raul Alcantara from the Red Sox for RHP Andrew Bailey and OF-L Ryan Sweeney. [12/28]

Reddick is not what Hollywood would call a Billy Beane acquisition. An aggressive approach has left him with walks in fewer than six percent of his 400-plus major-league plate appearances, and he offered at nearly half of the pitches thrown his way last season. Reddick does boast power potential, but that means he takes his fair share of swings and misses, too. On defense, he profiles as above-average, with a 70-grade arm giving baserunners second thoughts about taking the extra base on balls to right.

Reddick is unlikely to ascend beyond second-division status, although he should find himself in the A’s Opening Day outfield, perhaps alongside two other outfielders acquired via trade in Collin Cowgill and Michael Taylor. Given the A’s position on the win curve, they could certainly do worse, and Reddick’s inability to break into the Red Sox’ lineup should not be held against him. As one scout recently told Kevin Goldstein about Reddick (and Ryan Kalish), "They're both good enough to play every day in the big leagues… just not for the Red Sox."
R.J. Anderson

The A's got a young, everyday right fielder for Bailey, but Alcantara and Head are both very real prospects.

While Alcantara comes with the risks that apply to any 19 year-old who spent to majority of 2011 in the Gulf Coast League, he's an impressive arm with considerable polish for his age. At 6-foot-3 and a skinny 180 pounds, he has projection and already throws in the low-90s, touches 95, and displays highly advanced control, walking just six in 48 GCL innings while limiting the league to a .147 batting average. He'll flash a plus curveball which should become more consistent with experience, and he has some feel for a changeup. His 2012 full-season debut will give us a much better feel for just how good he is, but the upside is considerable.

Miles Head gets widely varying reviews from scouts. He was great in the first half at Low-A but struggled in the second half following a promotion to the Carolina League. That said, age is certainly on his side, as he doesn't turn 21 until this coming May. He combines bat speed with excellent hands and a good contact rate for a player with plus power, but there are questions about his profile, as he's short, squat and right-handed—a combination that has produced few impact first basemen in the big leagues. He could put up some big numbers in the California League next year, but Double-A will be the true test for him.—Kevin Goldstein

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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