On Daniel Bard and the “Untouchable” Tag

Boston has perhaps the best front office in baseball. Theo Epstein has shown himself to be a savvy dealer and negotiator, usually taking advantage of the trade deadline to add an extra bat or arm for Terry Francona. He clearly understands the value of things like defense (see: 2004) and how variable a bullpen is, which is exactly why producing fluff like this is both brilliant and transparent.

Daniel Bard is a fantastic arm with an ethereal fastball, but the idea that he is untouchable seems chimerical at best and foolish at worst. Since Epstein took over, he’s shown to be willing to reshuffle his pen at any point and trade just about any pitcher if it comes to that. Bard ranked as the fourth best prospect in the Sox system last winter by Baseball America, look at the other top 10 Sox prospects that happened to be pitchers and their current organization:

2009 – Michael Bowden (BOS), Nick Hagadone (CLE), Bard (BOS), Stolmy Pimentel (BOS)
2008 – Clay Buchholz (BOS), Justin Masterson (CLE), Bowden, Hagadone
2007 – Buchholz, Bowden, Bard, Bryce Cox (B0S), Craig Hansen (PIT), Kris Johnson (BOS)
2006 – Jon Lester (BOS), Jonathan Papelbon (BOS), Hansen, Manny Delcarmen (BOS), Buchholz
2005 – Papelbon, Lester, Anibal Sanchez (FLA)*, Abe Alvarez (Indy Leagues), Delcarmen

Tally: 14 pitchers, 9 in the system, 4 elsewhere, and 1 completely out of MLB. Sanchez technically wasn’t dealt under Epstein, so you could say 8/13 were kept. The idea that Epstein is willing to keep his top young arms stands true, although not to the extent where anyone – especially a reliever – is technically untouchable. Break the list down by pitchers who joined and stayed on the club as relievers and you get: Bard, Masterson, Hansen, Papelbon, Delcarmen. Two of those have been dealt, one is usually a top three reliever in the land, and Delcarmen has been mentioned in trade talks before.

Excuse me for being captain obvious, but the label of untouchable is a great way to boost perceptive value while doing nothing else. A few days ago Derek Zumsteg had a great piece on how the Yankees use their media machine to persuade thinking towards their favor, this same thing applies here in a different facet. The media is going to run wild with this tag and perception and inflate Bard’s worth to the Red Sox and any team.

Maybe the Red Sox truly view Bard as an elite reliever and untouchable, but they would they say so unless they had other intentions in mind?

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26 Responses to “On Daniel Bard and the “Untouchable” Tag”

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  1. Nick says:

    Totally agree, and I’m a Red Sox fan. Bard looks like the real deal, but if you listen to/read the local media, they are buying the “untouchable” thing hook, line and sinker. It’s a brilliant move on the FO’s part if they can turn a reliever into one of the centerpiece’s in a deal for a guy like King Felix or a young, elite bat.

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  2. Steve C says:

    I would actually like to see them trade Papelbon before Bard. Papelbon’s trade value will never be higher and with him not being signed through his arbitration years could be a factor.

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    • Derek says:

      Agreed. Bard has better stuff then Paps does anyway. I personally think that is why he is untouchable. They are planning on trading Papelbon in the future. He would get alot. Bard has a better fastball and controls it just as well as Paps. He also has a good slider that if he can get consistenancy on is going to be nasty.

      Bard will be the Sox closer in a year and Paps will be traded instead for a boatload.

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      • Joe R says:

        I argue we should’ve done it at the deadline, before teams really become concerned with his skyrocketing BB/9 rate. For now, he’s K-Rod, walk a lot of guys, (almost) always gets himself out of his own messes.

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  3. Joe R says:

    No reliever is untouchable in my opinion, except maybe Mariano Rivera in his heyday.

    That being said, 11.2 K/9 is nothing to sneeze at, especially at the league minimum. I can see trading him as he hits arb years, but for now, I want that in my pen.

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  4. Davidceisen says:

    There is one too many they’s in the last sentence.

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  5. Guidas says:

    He’s good, and may get even better, though we still haven’t seen him in a true high pressure situation (i.e. late inning, tied or up by 1 run). Still, he wasn’t so untouchable as to be excluded from the purported King Felix to Boston deal that almost went down before the July 31 deadline. His name, in fact, was very prominent on the list of top prospects that Theo advanced to the Mariners.

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    • Judy says:

      I think Bard’s been tested in a few high pressure situations already. He pitched the 8th inning of a 6-5 game against Oakland on July 30. They used him in the 7th inning of a 2 run game with 2 on and nobody out on July 11, when Masterson, Delcarmen, and Okajima were trying to cough up a big lead to KC like they did to the O’s earlier. And, he pitched the 8th inning of the game after that Baltimore debacle when the Sox were trailing by 4 runs going into that inning, and stayed in to pitch the 9th after they’d tied it up.

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  6. Ryan says:

    There are just a handful of relievers who are money year in, year out… Nathan, Shields before this year, etc. But just a handful. Seems like Bard could join that company.
    Also, apparently Bard was made available in an attempt to land Felix:

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  7. jfish26101 says:

    “Excuse me for being captain obvious, but the label of untouchable is a great way to boost perceptive value while doing nothing else. A few days ago Derek Zumsteg had a great piece on how the Yankees use their media machine to persuade thinking towards their favor, this same thing applies here in a different facet. The media is going to run wild with this tag and perception and inflate Bard’s worth to the Red Sox and any team.”

    This is exactly why the big market teams’ prospects/players are overhyped, they have the ability to do this easier than say the Pirates or the Padres. I don’t doubt that every team tries to do this but not every team is able to do so. Perhaps some of that is due to the FO but I think it has more to do with the market size and the media than the actual baseball side. Almost every couple of years every large market team has the next new stud on the block and more often than not they fail to be that elite level talent long term. Atlanta has been able to succeed doing this because of their long run of success (how many times have you heard something similar to “well Atlanta knows what they are doing so the player must be good” or “if Atlanta is giving the player up, they must know something”) but there really are not many teams that can benefit as easily from this as the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox due every year.

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  8. Ian says:


    Bard in July had one of the best months ever for a reliever. Guys on that list of utter dominance besides him include Gagne, Lidge, Dibble, Nathan, and Wagner, and Bard is the youngest. He’s the real deal and if you could re-do the prospect lists now he may have surpassed Buchholz in value.

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  9. Sam says:

    I saw the Derek Zumsteg piece that got lionized here as a “great piece”. It isn’t. It’s a rant about something (not entirely sure what it is), without an iota of supporting evidence. No links, nothing. No indication as to what media member is acting as the Yankee mouthpiece in what trade proposal. I am sure both sides are responsible for a Washburn-to-the-Yankees trade that didn’t happen, but I learned nothing about it from reading that.

    The players mentioned there are Hughes, Joba and Cano, none of whom are prospects, and Austin Jackson, who is a prospect. It mentions Yankees prospects that have apparently no talent and work ethic, but does not divulge who they exactly are (probably it is a dig at Jackson, the only one mentioned in the piece who I think is a decent prospect). So, I am really not clear who those “overhyped” Yankee prospects would be. I suppose not every Yankee prospects can measure upto the incredible standards of former “untouchable” Jeremy Reed: USSM stalwart Dave Cameron won’t trade him for Papelbon AND Lester.

    If it was a humor/rant piece, I agree it is an excellent one. It was funny, I would give that, and it’s not like I would expect the Yankees to be particularly popular in the USSM community. However, it was not at all an informative piece about the subject that is being discussed here. It was a bunch of assertions without anything to support it.

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  10. alskor says:

    I think he really is nearly untouchable. Effectively untouchable b/c of a combination of:

    -Papelbon’s shakiness
    -Papelbon’s contract situation
    -Bard’s cheapness
    -Bards’ years of control remaining
    -Bard’s effectiveness and extremely high ceiling
    -The Red Sox FO’s unwillingness to pay top dollar for relief pitching

    He’s not untouchable b/c they think he’s the best player in baseball… he’s just a perfect, perfect fit for where they are right now and their weaknesses. Could a team put together a package that makes sense involving him? Sure… but its really hard to replicate cheap, young, awesome and year to year contract.

    If reports are to be believed, he was offered to the Mariners in the King Felix trade discussions anyway… so he’s clearly not actually “untouchable.” This is a media thing that’s being blown up. The Red Sox do value him extremely highly, though.

    If someone had written that the Angels considered KRod untouchable in his rookie season or the next year would anyone have lampooned the team for it…?

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  11. Judy says:

    Seriously, name a contending team who traded away the best performing reliever in their bullpen at the time in a deadline deal.

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  12. Joe R says:

    I still think that in a current scope, Bard is close to being “untouchable”. 11.2 K/9, like I said, is very tough to duplicate.

    Come end of 2010/beginning of 2011, however, and it may be a different tune. I’d rather trade him away then if I could see the Sox acquire a big name starting pitcher or a good SS rather than let him hit his arb years and get expensive.

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  13. Rob in CT says:

    He’s a reliever. I seriously doubt that Theo thinks any reliever is untouchable, even one who throws 100mph with a sick breaking ball coupled with good control. Which is to say I’m sure they value him highly, but of course they’d part with him in the right deal. A deal for a true “untouchable,” apparently (King Felix).

    As for the USSM piece, what Sam said. Exactly right.

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  14. Judy says:

    Also, if I remember right, Daniel Bard came into the Red Sox system pre-hyped, as did Craig Hansen. They both got plenty of hype before anyone knew what team was going to draft them.

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    • Joe R says:

      I kind of feel bad for Craig Hansen, he was in the majors within months of being drafted (albeit only for a spot appearance). He was rushed to the show and never got to develop. 12 2/3 IP in the minors before his big league debut.

      Way to let him figure his stuff out, Red Sox.

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      • alskor says:

        It wasnt that. They were concerned his mechanics were going to result in injury, so they tweaked his delivery. He initially agreed to it, but didnt like the results and ended up butting heads with the organization on it. He finally went back to his original delivery last year.

        Its always dangerous to mess with a young pitcher’s delivery.

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  15. Ezra says:

    I was thinking about the untouchable tag this trade deadline season as well, with Kyle Drabek in mind. I thought the Phils were just juicing his value by labeling him untouchable before sending him packing to Toronto. Guess not, but his value is certainly higher than it was a month ago.

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  16. Joe R says:

    I feel like an asshole now, thanks Bard for last night.

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  17. JSG says:

    No player should be untouchable and I sure that if the right offer came along (ie the only way to have gotten Halladay or King Felix was to throw in Bard) Theo would have traded him in a heartbeat. Bard might have shown that he has some of the stuff to be a closer last night after coming back after his error, but he still is young. And before everyone anoints him the “closer in waiting” and wants Papelbon out the door, Bard is still young and Paps is pretty damn good (despite some moments this year).

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