Can you ever have enough starting pitching?
For some Red Sox fans, yes.
In Brad Penny's last start against the Twins, he pitched 5.1 innings, giving up three runs and striking out seven for the win. Immediately following that outing, speculation began to fly that Penny was expendable as the Red Sox had a "surplus" of starting pitching.
Penny has certainly pitched better as of late. And with the dominant Triple-A performances of Clay Buchholz and the imminent return to the majors by John Smoltz, the Red Sox do appear to be well-stocked with starters.
Yet trading away legitimate starting pitchers under the pretense of speculation seems a bit of a risk, does it not?
There are assumptions that if John Smoltz comes back in June, the Red Sox are going to have too many problems with starters.
I just don't subscribe to these assumptions. I believe you can never have too much starting pitching. Pitching and defense are the keys to championships.
If you are to trade Brad Penny, there are certain trade partners one has to expect. Teams looking to acquire a rental. Penny has a one-year deal in place with the Red Sox for 5 million dollars.
There is a 3 million dollar incentive if he exceeds 180 innings pitched. Obviously, Penny will be inspired to reach that incentive.
Who are the possible trade partners?
Buster Olney of ESPN started the trade winds earlier this week by floating out catch-all statements like "several teams are interested" and listed off multiple National League teams including Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.
I have no issue with trading any player on the Red Sox (Pedroia, Bay, and Youkilis excluded) but it seems to me as though Penny is not going to fetch anything worth dealing him for. What exactly do you think you get in return for him?
There has not been a single trade offer rumored but many Red Sox fans are ready to deal him. Again on presumption. All while talking out both sides of their mouths.
People say deal him. "Lots of teams need starting pitching." Yet if I say, "Keep him, " I am met with arguments that include "too much pitching", "unhappy clubhouse", and Penny's "incentive-laden contract."
Additionally, friends and local radio callers point out that Penny is 31 years old, has had arm troubles previously, and has notoriously tailed off performance-wise after the All-Star Break.
So if you are an opposing general manager, looking to acquire an arm, are you not going to be aware of these things? Brad Penny is a solid 3rd or 4th starter. I don't think there is any questioning that.
My issue is that the Red Sox are not going to receive the compensation that makes it worthwhile to deal him.
The next question is, what are the Red Sox needs?
We know the farm system is well-stocked. Theo Epstein and crew have done a remarkable job of building up arms through out the system.
The hitters are also starting to come into form as well. This will feed the team over the next 20 years and provide prospects to be traded for current MLB stars.
The Red Sox have an obvious need at shortstop. Nick Green and Julio Lugo (yuck) are not solutions.
Jed Lowrie is on the Disabled List until around the All-Star Break. If the Sox feel Lowrie projects to be an above average MLB shortstop, then Lugo and Green are going to fill in until mid-July. No deal to be done.
If Jed Lowrie is not their answer then you need to start looking at teams who have an expendable shortstop, have a need for pitching and are in contention. That narrows the list down considerably.
Milwaukee - Has JJ Hardy with SS prospect Alcides Escobar waiting in the wings. The Brewers currently have great starting pitching.
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St. Louis - Could use Brad Penny but really only has Khalil Greene. Greene has anxiety problems and is sub-par defensively.
Neither of these two sound like a match. I would certainly deal Penny for JJ Hardy, but I can't imagine the Brewers would do that deal.
The Chicago White Sox has a few shortstops but if they are not in contention in the AL Central, why would they trade for a rental?
Here is what the Red Sox trade Brad Penny for:
- An upgrade at shortstop
- A major league ready catcher
- An A-level prospect
That's it. Anything else is selling yourself short.
I just don't see anything happening in terms of a trade. I think it's all convenient speculation.
At the end of the day, having six starters with additional minor league depth is going to set the Red Sox up for a long postseason run in to October.
Brady Penny will be around for that.
Darryl Johnston is the Red Sox correspondent for Fanball.com. He has many years of sports writing under his championship belts. Email him - firstname.lastname@example.org