Boston Red Sox Trade: Why Melancon May Be Just the First Step

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIDecember 14, 2011

Don't count the Red Sox out on free agent closer Ryan Madson yet.
Don't count the Red Sox out on free agent closer Ryan Madson yet.Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Red Sox acquisition of Houston Astros closer Mark Melancon could be the answer to the closer position that was left open when former Red Sox stopper Jonathan Papelbon left for Philadelphia via free agency. 

That might not be how it plays out though. 

With the recent decision by Red Sox upper management along with Bobby Valentine to move Daniel Bard into the starting rotation, the Red Sox bullpen actually had two key holes to fill. The closer spot and the set-up man.

The Red Sox aren't known for being too open with the public when it comes to revealing their intentions as far as roster moves goes. They've been fairly consistent in their declarations that the team is looking to keep the payroll from further dramatic expansion and that the team intends to compete at the highest of levels in the 2012 season.

Mark Melancon might not be ready to lead a team to a World Series ring closing games. He could be plenty ready to set-up though. Melancon costs only $441k in 2012. He's not even arbitration eligible until 2014 and not a free agent until 2017.

That makes him affordable to any team, especially a team such as the Red Sox. Consider that Jesse Crain, who had similar numbers as a set up man, is in the midst of a three year $13 million deal.

Melancon closing just seems a little too much of a risk for the Red Sox at this point. His big league resume isn't outrageously impressive and he's got very limited experience. His low price tag means that the Red Sox are probably still a major player in the Andrew Bailey trade talks as well as the race to sign free agent closer Ryan Madson.

The Red Sox still have plenty of movable pieces if in fact there are other trades to be made. They've got two promising young outfielders in Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish. They've got gold glove caliber young shortstop Jose Iglesias as well as inexpensive veteran shortstop Marco Scutaro.

Kevin Youkilis could still be a player the Red Sox move if the circumstances dictated it. Lars Anderson is no longer thought of as a big time prospect, but he could easily be included as the non-centerpiece of a big trade.  

Trades and signings are rarely made in a "bubble" they're generally part of a big picture plan. This first trade of the offseason for the Red Sox is unlikely to reveal the final picture of what the team will look like when they take the field on opening day in 2012.  

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