Josh Bard signed with the Sox for $1.6m. He's a switch-hitting back-up catcher and a solid defender who would have fit in nicely with the Nationals, especially at that price. Last season his offensive numbers cratered to .279 OBP and .270 SLG as he suffered a series of nagging injuries including a sprained ankle and off-season wrist surgery that affected him early on. The wrist completely wiped out what little power he ever had, but what really hurt him was a .230 BABIP, which cancelled out most of the value of his good on-base skills. Even last year he had a solid 9.2% walk rate. But his BB and K rates remained consistent with his career averages, and Bill James and Marcel both expect him to rebound to right around .340 OBP / .395 SLG. Chone has him a bit worse at .338 / .369, and even there he'd be a measurable upgrade over Wil Nieves, who is a nice guy and all but shouldn't be on a major league roster except in the event of an emergency.
Brad Penny I would have liked even more. He is also coming off an injury-plagued season in which he battled shoulder tendinitis, but to get a guy like him for one year and $5 million is well worth the risk (the incentives in his deal could push the value of his contract to $8 million). He's just 31 years old, and although his K rates have declined two years in a row, a healthy Penny could easily bounce back with a mid to high-3s ERA and be our best pitcher. Bill James projects him at 3.91 ERA, Marcel has him at 4.25, and Chone at 4.64.
These are the kinds of buy-low candidates that the Nationals should be looking to scoop up for one-year deals. In addition to filling short-term needs, both of them have a chance to become type-A or B free agents if they can bounce back with good seasons next year, which will net draft picks if they sign with another team for 2010. Kudos to the Red Sox, who don't really need to be seeking out undervalued commodities but are smartly doing it anyway.