Andrew Bailey deal smart trade for Red Sox

A mediocre starting pitcher in the minor leagues, Andrew Bailey became a full-time reliever for the Oakland A's in 2009, when he jumped from Double-A to the majors, pitched in 68 games and 83 innings as a rookie while posting a 1.84 ERA, made the All-Star team and won American League Rookie of the Year honors.

The next two seasons, he continued to pitch well ... but has thrown just 90 innings combined, as he's battled bone chips in his elbow (he had surgery after the 2010 season) and more elbow and forearm issues in 2011 that kept him sidelined until late May.

The Boston Red Sox acquired him for Josh Reddick, leaving the obvious questions of:

1. Will he stay healthy?

2. How good is he away from the canyonlike confines of the Coliseum?

The first question is difficult to answer without more research, but considering Bailey also had Tommy John surgery in college, he's had significant elbow issues in at least three seasons. The risk isn't huge for Boston, as Bailey is just entering his first arbitration-eligible season, where he likely will receive a salary in the $3.5-4 million range.

For the second question, the easy answer might be that Bailey hasn't received any big advantage from pitching in Oakland, considering he has a career 2.17 ERA at home and 1.96 on the road. He also has held opponents to a .180 average at home and .197 on the road. However, I do see some cracks in the résumé. Most pointedly, he owns a spectacular 106-19 strikeout-walk ratio at home, but a more pedestrian 68-30 on the road. Perhaps more willing to challenge hitters in Oakland, where mistakes go to die on the warning track, he has averaged three more strikeouts per nine innings there than on the road.

That doesn't mean he can't correct his approach, but I do see it as a red flag. Don't get me wrong -- he's a very good closer, tough to hit (only four relievers with at least 150 innings have allowed a lower batting average since 2009), and, although he might not be quite in the Jonathan Papelbon class, if Bailey is healthy, you could argue that only Mariano Rivera rates better among AL closers. I also think this deal makes more sense than signing Ryan Madson to a big contract and allows the team to consider trying Daniel Bard as a starter.

As for Reddick, he oozes talent with a picture-perfect baseball build and sweet swing. His big drawback has always been an inability to control the strike zone. He doesn't draw many walks, although he doesn't strike out excessively. He showed some progress in 2011, receiving regular playing time in the majors for the first time, as his walk rate improved to 6.8 percent, but that was still below the major league average of 8.5 percent.

He started off hot and had appeared to turn the corner, but his poor play in August and September was one reason for Boston's collapse, as he hit just .235/.283/.368 with seven RBIs in 145 plate appearances in those two months. He'll turn 25 in February, so I still like the overall potential, although his ceiling appears to be solid big league starter at best. For the A's, it's a fair tradeoff for a closer with a balky elbow who is about to get expensive.