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Frankly, the Craig Breslow deal is largely about Morales

07.31.12 at 4:14 pm ET

The Red Sox completed exchanged complementary players with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday, acquiring left-handed reliever Craig Breslow from Arizona in exchange for right-hander Matt Albers and outfielder Scott Podsednik. In a vacuum, the deal looks like one in which the Sox moved a surplus piece (Podsednik, stashed in Triple-A) while swapping a right-hander who is having a good year with a left-hander who is doing the same.

Albers has a slightly better ERA than Breslow (2.29 vs. 2.70), but Breslow has better peripherals (foremost, his strikeout rate) to suggest that his performance might be more sustainable. Even so, the acquisition of a left-hander by the Sox is likely the undercard to what could be the most impactful development of the trade.

With the addition of another left-hander to join Andrew Miller in the Red Sox bullpen, the Sox are now free to shift left-hander Franklin Morales back from the bullpen to the rotation, where he had a spectacular cameo earlier this summer. The 26-year-old is 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA, 9.5 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings this year. In five starts, he was 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA, 10.6 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings.

He showed an electrifying starter’s arsenal. In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, one Red Sox team official surveyed the landscape of available starting pitchers and said simply, “There isn’t a starter out there with better stuff than Franklin Morales.”

The Sox have, for all practical purposes, six starters on their major league roster right now, with Morales having moved back to the bullpen in deference to Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Felix Doubront and Aaron Cook. Because Morales worked out of the bullpen earlier this year and, in fact, had spent most of the past four years there, the Sox viewed him as the most sensible one of those pitchers to move to the bullpen, particularly given the need to have a southpaw complement to Miller.

But with Breslow now in the fold, the Sox have their second left-hander, and so they are now in position to move Morales into the rotation. According to a team source, the Sox “likely” plan to have Morales return to the starting role.

For now, what that means for the other rotation members is unclear, though the logical pitcher to move out of the rotation would be Aaron Cook. The 33-year-old is 2-4 with a 4.50 ERA in seven starts while attempting to pitch to contact in historic fashion — he has just four strikeouts and four walks this year, rates of 0.9 per nine innings on both counts, preposterously low rates. (The last starter to finish the year with less than 1.0 strikeouts per nine innings accomplished the feat in World War II.) The Sox had received expressions of modest interest in the right-hander — who is making a prorated $1.5 million this year — in teh days leading up to the trade deadline.

Breslow, who was with the Sox in 2006-07, is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 40 games (43 1/3 innings) this year. He has 42 strikeouts and 13 walks. He features similar numbers against both right-handed (.226/.314/.366/.680) and left-handed (.243/.260/.400/.660) hitters.

Podsednik hit .387/.409/.484/.893 in 19 big league games with the Red Sox. Since a June DL stint, he’s been in Triple-A Pawtucket, where he’s hitting .281/.330/.360/.690.

Albers is 2-0 with a 2.29 ERA, 25 strikeouts and 15 walks in 39 1/3 innings this year. The 29-year-old was 4-4 with a 4.73 ERA in 64 2/3 innings with 68 punchouts and 31 walks a year ago, after the Sox signed him following the Orioles’ decision to non-tender the right-hander.

Like Albers, Breslow is not eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season. The left-hander is earning $1.795 million as a second-year arbitration eligible pitcher this year. Albers is making $1.08 million.

Read More: 2012 Trade Deadline, franklin morales, matt albers,
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