Red Sox may have a new Papelbon

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:28 PM ET

The Boston Red Sox may have replaced closer Jonathan Papelbon in making a trade Wednesday for Houston Astros reliever Mark Melancon.

The Astros acquired infielder Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland from the Red Sox.

In Melancon's first season as a closer, the 26-year-old righty saved 20 of 25 chances for an Astros team that won just 56 games. He had a 2.78 earned-run average, with 66 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings over 71 games.

Drafted by the New York Yankees in 2006, Melancon was traded to Houston in July 2010 for Lance Berkman.

The relief pitcher's arrival in Boston increases the possibility that setup man Daniel Bard will move to the starting rotation.

Lowrie, 27, batted .252 hitter in parts of four seasons with the Red Sox. He will likely replace shortstop Clint Barmes, who signed with Pittsburgh.

Papelbon has signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent.

The Red Sox immediately came up with a replacement for Lowrie, signing utility man Nick Punto, 34, to a two-year, $3.5-million contract.

RAMIREZ LIKES WINNING CHANCES

The Milwaukee Brewers made it official Wednesday regarding their signing of free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

Ramirez, who gets a three-year deal worth a reported $36 million, is expected to restore some power to a lineup that is likely to lose all-star first baseman Prince Fielder to free agency and have to make do without outfielder Ryan Braun, who faces a 50-game suspension for a positive doping test pending an appeal.

Ramirez hit .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBI for the Chicago Cubs in 2011. He had six seasons with at least 30 doubles and 25 home runs during nine years with the Cubs.

"I'm at the point where I have to win now -- at least try, compete," Ramirez said about joining the 2011 NL Central champions. "I know it's hard to win, but the Brewers have a good chance."

Before joining the Cubs, the 33-year-old Dominican played five-plus seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a 23-year-old, he had 34 home runs and 112 RBI in 2001.

Ramirez has hit 373 home runs in his 14 MLB seasons, with 1,122 RBI and has a career batting average of .284.

OUTFIELDERS ON MOVE?

A couple of outfielders were on the verge of new deals Wednesday night.

The Colorado Rockies were poised to sign free-agent Michael Cuddyer, formerly of the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins, who had been in the mix to re-sign Cuddyer, were expected to respond by attempting to finalize a three-year, $21-million deal with Josh Willingham.

Cuddyer reportedly had been offered a three-year, $25-million deal to stay in Minnesota, with Willingham the Twins' backup plan.

Willingham's agent, Matt Sosnick, told the Minneapolis Tribune that the outfielder has three offers on the table.

Willingham, 32, hit .246 with 29 homers for the Oakland A's in 2011.

Cuddyer, 32, hit .284 with 20 homers for the Twins.

SHORTSTOP STAYS PUT

Shortstop Rafael Furcal agreed to a two-year contract Wednesday with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Furcal was a trade-deadline acquisition from the Los Angeles Dodgers last season and hit .255 in 50 regular season games with St. Louis.

"Rafael proved to be a great addition for us last season," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "His leadership and experience was very evident during the pennant race and into the post-season."

Injuries have curbed Furcal's production three of the past four seasons.

A two-time all-star, Furcal has a .282 career average and 302 stolen bases over 12 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Dodgers and Cardinals.

BRIEFLY

Joel Zumaya, once a hot bullpen prospect who ran into a string of injuries with the Detroit Tigers, threw Wednesday in front of a few dozen scouts in Houston. The 27-year-old right-hander is trying to work his way back to the majors but hasn't pitched since June 2010 because of a recurrence of elbow trouble ... The Oakland Athletics have agreed to a one-year, $3.35-million contract with left-hander Dallas Braden. A shoulder injury sidelined Braden after three starts last season. The 28-year-old is 26-36 with a 4.16 ERA in 94 career games with Oakland ... The Arizona Diamondbacks confirmed a one-year contract with reliever Takashi Saito. Saito, 41, went 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 30 games with the Milwaukee Brewers last season ... The San Francisco Giants reportedly have re-signed right-handed relief pitcher Guillermo Mota to a one-year, $1 million deal. Mota, 38, had a 3.81 ERA in 2011.


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