This could be the beginning of the end for Daniel Bard in Boston, or a new beginning.
The 27-year-old right-hander, who was one of the best set-up men in baseball before his career took an unexpected detour after a miserable attempt to become a starting pitcher earlier this season, is set to join the Red Sox active roster on Thursday.
As a starter, Bard was 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP in 11 games (1- of which were starts). On June 3, he walked six batters, hit two and allowed five runs and one hit in 1.2 innings against the Blue Jays. He was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket the next day and moved back to the bullpen to regain his confidence and mechanics.
In about three months at Pawtucket, Bard has not been impressive on paper. He has a 7.03 ERA and a 1.87 WHIP over 31 games and 32 innings. He has 32 strikeouts and 29 walks, and he has allowed 31 hits. Bard also hit 10 batters and uncorked nine wild pitches.
With a live arm that can reach the high 90s on the radar gun – though he has been in the mid-90s this season – Bard still has a high ceiling. Thus the reason it was suggested by ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Red Sox offer Bard to Toronto for manager John Farrell.
A player-for-manager trade would not be unprecedented. Back when they were the Devil Rays, Tampa Bay sent outfielder Randy Winn to Seattle for Lou Piniella. Last year, the White Sox dealt manager Ozzie Guillen to the Marlins and in 1976 Oakland shipped Chuck Tanner to Pittsburgh. In 1979, Tanner guided the Pirates to a World Series title.
Farrell was well-respected in Boston as Terry Francona’s pitching coach, and the Red Sox expressed interest in bringing him back last off-season before the Blue Jays rebuffed them.
Since Bard has upside, he could interest the Blue Jays front office. Farrell will have one year left on his contract after this season, and if he does not want to sign an extension, it would make sense to part ways and get compensation, especially if it involves a potential closer in Bard.