Well what do you know? There is a baseball team in town after all! With not much to speak on except the non-signing of Mark Teixeira, the Red Sox fiiiiinally made a noteworthy move this offseason. A few moves actually. The first is that they signed pitcher Brad Penny to a one-year deal worth $5 million, with incentives that could pay him up to $8 million. The incentives are strictly innings-pitched related. Let me get right down to it - I love this deal. First of all, with a rotation of Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, and ????, it's clear they needed another starter. I'm not completely sold on Buchholz just yet, and moving Masterson into the rotation will weaken their bullpen. Second, this is a very low risk contract from the Sox standpoint. Five million is nothing when you're John Henry - if it doesn't work out it's no big loss at all. Third, and most importantly, Brad Penny is pretty damn good. I know last year's numbers were poor, but keep in mind he was battling injuries for most of the season. I'm not going to completely dismiss last year though, but rather be optimistic that he has recovered from his arm troubles, and also note that the Red Sox have shown that they can develop programs to manage players with arm injuries. That said, looking at Penny's numbers from 2006 and 2007 gives me tremendous hope. In 07 he was just out-of-his-mind nasty, posting a 151 ERA+ (!!!), a 1.31 WHIP, and 135 K's in 208 innings. Career year? Perhaps. But if he can still throw mid-to-high-90's with downward movement, he has a chance to miss plenty of bats. 2006 was a little more down to earth, but still solid, posting a 1.38 WHIP, a 104 ERA+, and 148 K's in 189 innings. In fact, Penny has posted an ERA+ over 100 in 5 of the last 6 years, the only exception being 2008. For those unfamiliar with the stat, that means he has been better than league average in terms of ERA. Bottom line: it's a risk well worth taking if he returns to the pitcher he was pre-2008. If not, it only costs you $5 million. If you further take into account that he is replacing Paul Byrd, it's hard to argue with this move.
Remember Josh Bard? If not, here's a bit of a refresher. Sox acquired him in the deal that brought Coco to Boston, then short-sightedly traded his non-knuckleball-handling ass to the Whale's Vagina for Dougie Mirabelli. HzMLS and I sat in the center field bleachers that night, as Belli got escorted by the fuzz to the park just in time for him to not go deep. Anyway, Bard is back once again, another 30-year-old signed to another one year deal for short money. Can't argue with this one either. Bard is actually better than some think, and looking at the numbers I wonder if there's a chance he'll be the Opening Day starter this year. There is no doubt his last two seasons were better than Varitek's, so let's play a bit of a hypothetical as to what this move does to the current catcher-of-ball dilemma. MLB.com hypothesizes that Bard could start, with the Sox re-signing Varitek and asking him to assume the duties of catching Tim Wakefield. I would not have a problem with this scenario at all, but I don't think Varitek would go for it. The second option would be to sign Tek and start him, with Bard serving as the backup. I don't see this happening either, for two reasons. First, Bard has shown that he cannot handle Wakefield, and presumably one of the conditions when he was brought back was that he would no longer have to catch the knuckler. Second, Bard is a better offensive player than Tek at this juncture by virtually every measure. The third option is Bard is the starter and the Sox find a backup who can handle Wakefield, either from within (Dusty Brown, anyone?) or a replacement-level player in free agency. For the record, I think this is the most likely scenario. Or fourth, the Sox pool together some prospects and acquire a Teagarden or a Saltalamacchia in a trade, and Bard serves as the backup. Either way, it seems to me that Jason Varitek's days in Boston are numbered, unless he is willing to not only catch Tim Wakefield this year, but also accept a reduced role with the team.
But yeah, hooray baseball and stuff! Think I'm an idiot? Am I missing something? Comment away!