Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Breaking Down the Sox - Astros Trade is reporting that the Red Sox have a struck a deal for Houston Astros closer Mark Melancon in exchange for infielder Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland. As as Astros fan I love this move. While Melancon was certainly one of the more effective pitchers in the Astros pen last year, he was by no means an elite closer, and let's face it - when you're only winning 50-something games in a season, you don't really have a need for an elite closer anyways. Anyhow, let's look a little closer at the pieces in this deal:
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Mark Melancon - 2011 was abysmal for the Houston Astros, but Melancon was definitely one of the bright spots. Originally a set-up man for Brandon Lyon, Melancon assumed the closer's role when Lyon was lost for the year to a partially torn rotator cuff. In 71 games, Melancon was 8-4 with 20 saves in 25 opportunities and a 2.78 ERA. While Melancon was a more than serviceable closer for the Astros, I can't see him filling that role in Boston. Melancon is durable and capable of going multiple innings and pitching on back-to-back days so to me he seems to be more of a set-up guy. While Boston is in need of a closer following the loss of Jonathan Papelbon, they also have a more general need for quality relievers, especially with the possibility of last year's setup man Daniel Bard moving into the starting rotation. Bottom line, Melancon is a great addition, but I would still expect the Sox to make a play for either Andrew Bailey, Ryan Madson or someone similar to cover the 9th inning in 2012.

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Jed Lowrie - The departure of Clint Barmes left a void at shortstop for the Astros. With Angel Sanchez not suited to take over as an every day player and Matt Downs and Jimmy Paredes best suited for other spots on the field, the Astros appeared to be unable to fill that gap from within. Enter the versatile Lowrie who started 130 games at shortstop over the past 4 season for the Red Sox. Although not a plus defender, it's not like he's Geoff Blum at short either. A switch hitter with gap power and good plate discipline and at 27, he's got a chance to really break out in 2012. The only real issue with Lowrie is whether or not he can stay healthy, but you're almost certainly looking at the Astros Opening Day shortstop right here.

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Kyle Weiland - You may remember Weiland as a part of Boston's epic collapse this past September. The rookie right hander certainly contributed going 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in 5 September appearances and failed to get through the 5th in any of his 3 September starts. Still, he certainly shows promise and will compete for a spot in the Astros rotation this spring. Weiland pitched very well in AAA last year posting a 3.58 ERA in 24 starts while holding batters to a .232 average and striking out nearly a batter an inning. His fastball tops out in the low to mid 90s and there's still room for him to fill out his 6'4" frame. A college closer at Notre Dame, Weiland has been used predominantly as a starter in his professional career, but the Astros will certainly have that in their back pocket should he struggle to make their rotation in spring training. With Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers on the trading block, the acquisition of another young, major league ready arm seems like a solid move, especially given the direction the team is taking under new GM Jeff Luhnow.

In conclusion, I think the Red Sox probably gave up too much, but when you're as deep as Boston is, you're more equipped to overpay for what you need. And considering the bottom line, the Red Sox got an arm they needed and it cost them two players they were prepared to be without this coming season anyways.

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