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The Red Sox are warming to the idea of turning accomplished setup man Daniel Bard into a starting pitcher, a plan that gained traction when the righthander told manager Bobby Valentine yesterday that would be his preference.
Bard has long voiced that hope. But now the Sox are listening, given the holes in their rotation and the lack of palatable options on the free agent market.
Bard made it clear to Valentine he would embrace whatever role helps the team best. But the Sox seem comfortable with the idea of at least giving Bard the opportunity, knowing he could return to the bullpen if it doesn’t work out.
“We’re still talking about it,’’ general manager Ben Cherington said. “There’s always the chance that isn’t determined now, but later on or in spring training. We certainly want to give Daniel a chance to prepare for spring training in the right way, and so we’ll figure that out.’’
Globe | Bard prefers to start
OK, so maybe he didn't just choose this out of the blue. He started in college, for one.
But there are three driving factors that are making him voice this concern now. One is money. He's just seen Papelbon set the top of the market for closers, and he came away with (maybe) $50 million. By contrast, Aaron Harang is getting $12 million for two years to start in LA. Aaron Harang. What does that tell you about the earning power of the positions? Bard is unlikely to hit the CC Sabathia-level, nine-figure-type deal, but even if he becomes an average starter, he should make a lot more money over the course of his career. Closers tend to be injured more, and have less consistent performance. So that paycheck looks nicer as a starter.
Second is timing. With Papelbon gone, Bard is in line to close, and if he did so effectively, he would officially become a closer in the eyes of the marketplace. The more time that goes on, the harder it will be to convert. This is especially true when you think about the innings limitations many teams put on players. For example, if the Red Sox don't want to increase his innings by more than 30 in a season, and he threw 73 last season, he obviously wouldn't be able to get up to full-fledged starter level for a couple years. Delaying that progress by a season obviously keeps him away from his goal (and his money) for another year.
Third is Bobby V, and probably to a lesser degree, Ben Cherington. With a change in management comes a more welcome chance to change other things. Not that Tito and Theo couldn't think outside the box, but maybe Bard has an easier time expressing his desire to close to new people.
Based on the closer market, I'd prefer Bard to close, because a free agent closer is either going to be expensive or risky (or both). But from a long-term standpoint it would be great to have another young starter. Even this year it would be great -- he could theoretically take some of those Wakefield/Aceves type starts. We're not going after a big-name free agent pitcher (don't buy into the CJ Wilson rumors, it's just not happening), so we will have to be creative to fill the last couple holes. Is it easier to find a cheap, reliable 4th or 5th starter and leave Bard to close, or to try to uncover a Kyle Farnsworth-for-the-Rays-like diamond in the rough and let Daniel make the move he wants? This is the decision Cherington will have to make.
On page 2, the Sox didn't make any moves on the first day of the winter meetings, but did receive interest in a couple of young players.