Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Red Sox Trade Jed Lowrie & Kyle Weiland, For Astros Closer Mark Melancon
Another day and another interesting move by the Boston Red Sox.
Today, they traded spare parts with infielder Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland to the Houston Astros for closer Mark Melancon.
I'm a big fan of the move, assuming that Melancon will be the setup guy for either Andrew Bailey (A's) or Ryan Madson (free agent, of the Phillies). I'll grant you that predicting who will be a successful closer or not is basically impossible but Boston can't pin its hopes on a guy who is coming from the NL Central to the AL East.
This also means that Daniel Bard will be in the rotation (please no); as far as I'm concerned, Melancon should not be construed as Jonathan Papelbon's replacement.
Houston was the worst team in MLB last season with 56 wins and Melancon went 20 for 25 in save chances with three holds during his first year as a closer. He's 26 and he had a 2.78 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 66 strikeouts, 26 walks in 74 1/3 innings.
He was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2006 and traded to the Astros in 2010 for Lance Berkman. Best of all, he's very cheap ($421,000), he's not eligible for arbitration until 2014 and he won't be a free agent until 2017.
I'm psyched to say goodbye to Lowrie who is basically J.D. Drew lite, meaning he never met a minor injury he didn't milk for all that it was worth. He hit .252 in four seasons for Boston and never really found a position since he struggled defensively at third base and shortstop. The 309 at bats he had in 2011 were a career-high which tells you all you need to know. See you later Stanford guy.
It's silly at this point to say one way or another if Weiland will ever amount to much at the MLB level. He went 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in seven appearances last season for the Red Sox. Maybe with less pressure in Houston and more time to grow, rather than being thrust into vital games right away, the former Notre Dame closer can be productive. Only time will tell on that one.
UPDATE 12/14: For once, Boston wasted no time in finding a replacement but in this case, it was one scrub for another as they signed utility infielder Nick Punto to a two-year, $3 million deal to essentially replace Lowrie.
A member of the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, Punto is 34-years-old and he's been in MLB for 11 seasons. For his career, he's played more than 250 games at three positions: second base, third base and shortstop.
He played in 63 regular season games for St. Louis and in 133 at bats last season with the Cardinals, he hit .278 with a .388 OBP and .421 SLG. Known mostly for his versatility and glove work, he also appeared in 15 playoff games so he earned his ring.
Punto's career began in Philly in 2001 before he went to Minnesota in 2003. The Twins are where he made his career, he spent seven seasons there before moving to St. Louis last offseason. Among active players with 2500 at bats, Punto has the second lowest slugging percentage (.327) which is only better than Cesar Izturis (.322).
He's dependable and tough (Lowrie's two biggest weaknesses) so there is little doubt that Red Sox fans will quickly fall in love with his style.