MILWAUKEE -- Less than a year after the Brewers traded for him, Burke Badenhop is on the move again.
"It's my personal trade deadline," Badenhop joked on Friday after the Brewers dealt the sinkerball specialist to Boston for Minor League left-hander Luis Ortega.
It was a show of general manager Doug Melvin's confidence in his other in-house bullpen options and a familiar feeling for Badenhop, who has been traded four times in his career, always in late November or early December.
Badenhop, who turns 31 in February, was arbitration-eligible again after earning $1.55 million last season, and he is expected to earn about $2 million or so next season in his final year before free agency. Rather than non-tender him next month, the Brewers sent him to Boston for Ortega, 20, freeing a spot on a previously full 40-man roster for a waiver claim, a Rule 5 Draft pick or other addition, and trusting middle relief to such pre-arbitration pitchers as Michael Blazek, Alfredo Figaro, Donovan Hand and Rob Wooten, each of whom had some success at different points in 2013.
The Brewers will also have starters Hiram Burgos and Mike Fiers coming back from injury as options to either start or work in relief, and, if he's not lost in next month's Rule 5 Draft, they could take a look at former supplemental first-round pick Kyle Heckathorn, who recorded a 3.60 ERA at Triple-A Nashville.
All of those pitchers are right-handed, like Badenhop.
"I talked to Burke about it and the fact this is a business," Melvin said. "He seemed to understand it."
Badenhop does understand it. In fact, when his phone rang on Friday and Melvin was on the line, Badenhop expected bad news.
"I thought he was calling to let me know they were going to non-tender me or something," Badenhop said. "So to have landed with the Red Sox is pretty awesome.
"I completely understand, this being my fourth trade now. I told Doug I couldn't thank him enough for the opportunity to land in Milwaukee, and I told him I wish I would have pitched better. I always expect great things out of myself, and I was hoping to take a little more of a next step this last year. Obviously, it didn't happen.
"But there's still something to be said for giving innings and being someone you can count on, and [Melvin] said it was not performance-based whatsoever. It was a dollars thing. For a midmarket team, it makes sense that if you can get somebody to do the same thing for a lower price, you're going to do that. There are no hard feelings there."
Badenhop made 63 appearances out of the bullpen in 2013, going 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA over 62 1/3 innings, striking out 42 and walking 12. He held right-handed batters to a .229 average, although lefties hit .338 against him.
He appeared in 40 of the Brewers' first 81 games, a pace that would have made him only the third pitcher in club history to pitch 80 times in a season. But his role diminished down the stretch, to the point where he pitched only five times in September. His performance played a role in that, as did Brandon Kintzler's role as a late-inning workhorse and the emergence of such callups as Wooten.
Melvin will still monitor the relief market this winter but is more interested in a left-hander to pair with Tom Gorzelanny and, more important, someone with closing experience to pair with Jim Henderson. Last year, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez fit that bill, but Rodriguez was traded to the Orioles in July and Axford to the Cardinals in August.
Ortega, listed as 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, has spent parts of two seasons in Boston's farm system since signing as an international free agent in July 2011. He is 9-6 with a 2.25 ERA in 25 games, including 14 starts. In 2013, in the Gulf Coast League, he made 12 appearances, including one start, and went 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA.
Melvin said that the Brewers will evaluate Ortega's role -- starter vs. reliever -- in Spring Training. If all goes well, he could begin the season at Class A Wisconsin.