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Red Sox Analysis

Ben Cherington’s patience is paying off

Deal for Andrew Bailey reveals Red Sox GM’s plan

Ben Cherington

Adam Hunger/REUTERS

Ben Cherington

Jonathan Papelbon will get $12.5 million this season from the Phillies. Heath Bell is down for $9 million from the Marlins and Joe Nathan will cost the Rangers $7.3 million.

Papelbon is 31, Bell is 34, and Nathan is 37.

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In 27-year-old Andrew Bailey and 26-year-old Mark Melancon, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington landed two young late-inning relievers who will cost the team approximately $4 million in 2012.

Bailey, in his first year of arbitration, will probably get a deal worth $3.5 million or so. Melancon will get a raise from the $421,000 he made last season.

The biggest cost was inventory. Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland went to Houston for Melancon. The Sox sent Josh Reddick and two prospects to Oakland for Bailey.

Lowrie and Reddick were spare parts. The Red Sox had grown frustrated with both players, Lowrie because of his inability to stay healthy and Reddick because of his lack of plate discipline.

Weiland has a chance. But he had a shaky second half with Pawtucket and was shelled in seven big league games.

The two prospects sent to Oakland are solid ones. First baseman Miles Head hit 22 home runs last season for Greenville and Salem. But with Adrian Gonzalez around, his future was as a trade chip. RHP Raul Alcantara has a 2.72 ERA in two seasons and is 19. He has a fastball people notice.

But around baseball, it’s being called a good deal for the Sox. Bailey is under control for three years, has experience closing, and is from the East Coast. He’s well acquainted with the passion for baseball in the Northeast and is eager to embrace it.

By trading for Bailey and Melancon, Cherington also solved several other issues:

• Daniel Bard is now sure to be a starter. If he can make the transition, that gives the Red Sox four starters they can reasonably count on. That fills one of the rotation holes.

• Avoiding expensive free agent relievers should give the Red Sox some money to obtain a free agent starter. Look for Cherington to be patient and find a bargain in January. There will be some out there.

• Alfredo Aceves becomes a swingman. They’ll bring him to camp as a starter and build up his arm. But having two converted relievers in the rotation is largely untenable given their innings limits. So Aceves can return to the bullpen and fill whatever role is needed.

• A bullpen of Bailey, Melancon, Aceves, Bobby Jenks, Franklin Morales. Matt Albers and Somebody Else is not perfect. But it’s pretty solid.

• Trading Reddick opens it up for Ryan Kalish to be the right fielder. He may not be on the team Opening Day as he could need some time in the minors to regain his form after a wasted 2011 season. But Kalish will get there eventually. He has far more upside than Reddick.

Cherington has been a target of some fans who wanted a faster pace to the offseason. But in the last two weeks he has turned Lowrie, Reddick, and three prospects into a closer and set-up man and saved money for another move. Plus the Red Sox get a draft pick for Papelbon.

The 2012 Red Sox aren’t there yet. But the recent moves give you a sense of what Cherington wants to do and there is plenty to like.

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