On December 28, 2011 right handed pitcher Andrew Bailey was acquired in a trade from the Oakland Athletics to replace Boston’s departing free agent closer, Jonathan Papelbon. The trade cost the Red Sox a possible budding star in outfielder Josh Reddick. Papelbon was a proven closer who could pitch under pressure, a precious commodity in baseball these days.
It was believed that Bailey would step in and assume Papelbon’s role with little drop off. He certainly had the numbers to think he was more than capable. During his time in Oakland Bailey saved 75 games over three seasons, won the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year award and made two All-Star teams.
But Bailey struggled through an injury plagued season in the disaster that was the 2012 Red Sox. The injuries started in spring training and never stopped all year.
Everyone assumed that under new manager John Farrell, a healthy Bailey would be allowed a clean slate as the now established closer of the Red Sox and would look for a big rebound as he returned to his previous form. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
This past December the Red Sox decided to go out and trade for Pittsburgh Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan and Farrell immediately named him the closer sight unseen. No spring training competition, no possibility for Bailey to keep the job unless he was out pitched, nothing.
So what gives with Bailey? There were a lot rumors flying around him during this off season.
First, he was rumored to be the guy going back to the Blue Jays as the compensation for bringing Farrell here as manager. Then it was said he’d be traded somewhere for a big bat but neither of these things happened.
Now the Red Sox go into spring training with Bailey as a set up man and no one can explain why. It’s puzzling as to why Hanrahan was brought here. Is it a sign that management is not confident in Bailey’s ability to bounce back from injury and perform at previous levels?
If so, that’s a bad sign for GM Ben Cherington who is taking heat from many Sox fans for his ability to build a roster. This was his signature move last off season and now he goes out and basically admits it was a mistake by bringing in another closer? Not a good way stop the questions from being asked.
Management can say all it wants about how Bailey was accepting of his move to the eighth inning but this has to be killing him inside. He’s a competitor and seems to have the mental make up for a closer.
After arriving in Boston he said he was looking forward to taking on the challenge of replacing a very popular player in Papelbon. When healthy, Bailey’s on field performance is very solid so having no competition for the closers job makes no sense.
The good side of this is that if Hanrahan fails, Bailey will be right there to step in and if Hanrahan is good, the last two innings make the Sox potentially lethal late in games.
It’s just odd that the Red Sox would cast aside a solid pitcher like Bailey sight unseen because of injuries. An opportunity for guys to earn their bullpen roles in spring training would be ideal because it reduces controversy around the team. Farrell’s plan better work because the last thing the Sox need more of in 2013 is controversy.