It appears the Boston Red Sox are not going to wait until 2009 before securing a new battery. Theo Epstein and company have agreed to terms with free agents Brad Penny (1 year, 5-8 million) and Josh Bard (1 year, 1.6 million).
Just a few days ago I noted Bard as a smart addition for the Sox. Considering the relative small risk involved, and the potential for a decent reward, you have to like the deal for the Red Sox. At 1.6 million, the Sox are paying for less than a half of a win, an investment likely to produce profit, especially considering that Bard has averaged ~1 WAR per season over his career.
Bard’s addition would seemingly lower the chances of Jason Varitek returning. Given that neither Bard or Varitek should catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield along with George Kottaras familiarity with the pitch thanks to Charlie Zink. I guess if nothing else the Sox could either carry three catchers, which seems excessive, or simply release Bard if Varitek does return, but reading between the lines neither seems overly likely.
Right-shoulder ailments ruined Brad Penny’s 2008. Actually, that’s a bit unfair, Penny’s stubbornness towards those injuries ruined his 2008. Rather than do the sensible thing by not attempting to pitch through such aches, Penny “soldiered on” and hurt both the Dodgers and his free agent stock in the process. Penny’s walk per nine rates were the highest of his career, his strikeout per nine the lowest, and his FIP the highest by a little less than half of a run. It’s safe to call 2008 the nadir of Penny’s career.
Only a slight change occurred in Penny’s velocity and pitch usage. Penny still threw ~70% fastballs that sat around 92-93, along with a good number of curveballs. 2008 did see Penny’s change, a pitch he used heavily in 2007 and no other year, fade into the back of his arsenal. It doesn’t appear Penny’s pitches were more hittable in 2008 either, despite increased homerun rates, Penny’s batted ball variety hovered around his career averages.
Penny’s contract calls for a three million dollar bonus if he reaches at least 160 innings. There’s a pretty decent chance Penny cashes in on that. Marcels says 127 innings and a 4.11 FIP, placing Penny around 2.5-3 WAR, or in other words, earning more than what his contract is worth. This suggests Justin Masterson will remain in relief and Michael Bowden along with Clay Buchholz won’t be in the rotation initially.
The Red Sox cadre consists of highly intelligent baseball folk, so to see chances taken on players like Bard and Penny makes sense, just as it did with Bartolo Colon last season.