Red Sox dump unhappy Payton, bolster bullpen

By Jim Callis

July 13, 2005

With Jay Payton pointedly unhappy about his part-time role, the Red Sox went the addition-by-subtraction route when they designated him for assignment last Thursday. On Wednesday they found a taker for him, sending him to the Athletics for some much-needed bullpen help in Chad Bradford. Boston also included cash toward the remainder of Payton’s $3.5 million salary this year.

Payton, 32, may not want to acknowledge it, but he’s best suited for part-time play. The only time during his eight-year major league career that he posted big numbers came when he was a Rockie aided by Coors Field. After joining the Red Sox in the Dave Roberts trade with the Padres in December, he hit .263/.313/.429 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 55 games. Payton has average hitting ability and power, though he doesn’t walk much. While he runs well and shows good range in the outfield, he sometimes takes awkward routes on fly balls. His arm is a plus. He’ll replace Eric Byrnes in Oakland’s outfield rotation after the A’s traded Byrnes to the Rockies later on Thursday. Payton is in the final guaranteed year of a two-year, $5.5 million contract, and Oakland likely will buy him out for $600,000 rather than pay him $4 million in 2006. He’s a career .283/.333/.442 hitter with 82 homers and 321 RBIs in 770 games.

Bradford, a 30-year-old righthander, came off the disabled list after missing the first half of the season recovering from back surgery. He has made nine rehab appearances in the minors this year after going 5-7, 4.42 in 68 big league games in 2004. He posted a 34-24 strikeout-walk ratio in 59 innings, while opponents batted .234 with five homers. A submariner, Bradford uses an upper-80s sinker, changeup and curveball. He’s a groundball pitcher whose unorthodox style is typically much more effective against righthanders than lefthanders. The Red Sox hope he’ll shore up a relief corps that has been their weakest link this year, as Boston’s 5.64 bullpen ERA is the third-worst in baseball. Bradford makes $1.4 million this year and will be arbitration-eligible again after the season. He has gone 21-15, 3.47 with seven saves in 294 big league games.