Monday, December 29, 2008

Are The Red Sox A Penny Wise?

The Boston Red Sox have signed free agent pitcher Brad Penny to a one-year contract worth $5 million pending a physical. Penny could earn up to $8 million in 2009 with bonuses and incentives.

Penny has pitched in the majors since 2000. He has spent his entire major league career in the NL first with the Florida Marlins and then the Los Angeles Dodgers. Penny earned a World Series ring with the Marlins in 2003.

Penny joined the Dodgers in the middle of the 2004 season. He won 16 games with the Dodgers both in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, Penny was named the starting pitcher for the NL in the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. However, 2008 was not a good year for Penny. He went 6-9 with an awful 6.27 ERA. He had two stints on the DL because of shoulder trouble and did not pitch for the Dodgers in the postseason. The Dodgers declined to pick up his option for 2009 thus making him a free agent.

Despite 2008 being a down year for Penny I think this is a smart move for the Red Sox. Penny is reunited with Red Sox starting pitcher Josh Beckett who also had a subpar 2008 season. Beckett and Penny will not only renew their acquaintance but will renew a friendly competition between the two which should benefit both pitchers. Besides signing Penny is something the Red Sox probably couldn't do if they tied up $180 million in Mark Teixeira.

What would happen if Penny were to win more games in 2009 for the Red Sox than A.J. Burnett does for the Yankees? Of course, Burnett was teammates of Penny and Beckett in Florida. They all came up at around the same time. Penny enters the 2009 season with 94 career wins compared to 87 for Burnett (Beckett has 89.) Yet the Yankees are paying $82 to Burnett over five years while the Sox will pay Penny no more than $8 million this season. Yes, Penny is coming off an injury but Burnett has been on the DL nine times since 2000. For me, Burnett is far riskier investment than Penny.

I think when the 2009 season concludes it will be the Red Sox who are a penny wise rather than a pound foolish.

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