As injuries throughout the infield (Pedroia, Youkilis, Lowrie) have started to take their toll on the Red Sox this season, the “surplus” in the starting rotation may soon be required to yield some reinforcements.
“Something to watch: Boston’s pitching surplus might lead to an early-season trade. Clay Buchholz has been absolutely dominant in the minors so far this year, and very soon, Daisuke Matsuzaka will return to the big leagues.
Eventually, it figures that Justin Masterson will go back to the Boston bullpen, and that will create the spot in the rotation for Matsuzaka. If the Red Sox want to create another for Buchholz, they would always have the option of taking offers for a veteran pitcher who has had quality starts in four of his six outings. That guy is Brad Penny, who might be a nice fit for a team like the Milwaukee Brewers or the Mets. That’s all speculation at this point.”
It’s clear that upon Daisuke’s return, Justin Masterson will head back to the bullpen where he can serve as the “ROOGY/induce double play in critical situation/need 3 innings in long relief/set up in any situation” guy that maximizes his flexibility for the organization. Matsuzaka isn’t more than two rehab starts away from making his return. It will be interesting to see if Daniel Bard or Hunter Jones will be returned to the minor leagues to make room on the active roster. Should Bard do anything but blow up in his first few outings in The Show, that designee will likely be Jones.
Common sentiment (as noted in our most recent poll to the right) would suggest that (1) Tim Wakefield is in the rotation for the duration and (2) once John Smoltz is healthy enough to return, Brad Penny is likely the odd man out.
Given Penny’s inability to pitch out of the pen (ok…maybe he could, but there isn’t any history to suggest that), and the fact that he has, despite some poor outings, demonstrated that he can be of value to a starting rotation, there is plenty of smoke to fan Olney’s flames.
While I am not a proponent of sacrificing rotational depth, as depth is often an injury away from being called a mirage, Penny represents a unique situation in that he is (a) only signed for this season (b) will not likely be back next season (c) might not be one of the best five starters in the organization and (d) has no options if he isn’t in the rotation. If trading Penny can garner us infield relief or the “catcher of future”, then I am all for making the move.
Looking at the teams mentioned in Olney’s post, the Brewers have J.J. Hardy who will be a free agent the year after next and will likely price himself out of the Brewers price range. Could a subsidized Julio Lugo plus Brad Penny net J.J. Hardy to man the SS position for 2009 and be in the mix next year as well. Hardy’s off to a slow start this season, but a BABIP of .221 vs and expectation nearer .280 would suggest that his bat should return over the course of the year. ZIPS in season projections would forecast a .268 average with 18 home runs and 55 RBI left in his bat this season which would be an offensive upgrade at short.
Does the comfort level the Red Sox have with Alex Cora make the familiar face a potential target in a deal with the Mets? Would Cora alone be enough value for Penny? I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
What about Oakland’s Bobby Crosby or the seemingly ageless Omar Vizquel in Texas? Could a Penny+ package with Texas finally net a young catcher with Vizquel in tow?
One thing we can say for sure, is that Theo is certainly making and fielding calls at all times and I think it is safe to assume that Penny’s name is a topic of conversation.