Sunday, December 28, 2008

Josh Bard and Brad Penny to the Red Sox

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.


John said...

Bard- meh.
Penny- I would have liked that move. However, it doesn't seem like the Nats would be able to make a similar move on a guy like Penny. Think about it from the pitcher's perspective: you're only being offered one year deals- would you take less money to play for a better team, and be more likely to post better stats (ERA, wins, etc- the stats that get the longer, more lucrative contracts), or would you play for the Nats for a few million more (making him less of a good deal to the Nats, and probably less likely to get a multi-year deal afterwards)? Or the Nats would have to offer multiple years, again potentially undermining the value of the contract. *disclaimer: I admit that I may be overly pessimistic about the chances the Nats have to do something like this and it could be that they aren't pursuing these types of relative bargains at all. It just seems less likely for a team like the Nats to land a guy like Penny, is all I'm sayin'.

John said...

For instance: “There were a lot of teams involved,” said Penny in a phone conversation. “But I wanted to go somewhere where I knew we had a great chance at winning, and Boston is that place.”

Steven said...

Well, anyone who signs is going to say nice things about the team they signed with, so I wouldn't put much stock in that quote.

To answer your first question, a pitcher looking to re-establish himself and cash in with a better contract would be better off playing anywhere but the AL East. Certainly you'd want to be in the NL, and with Boston it's questionable whether they'll have room for him in the rotation at all. I might also look for a team with good defense. Penny's a groundballer, so if we could tell him he'd have AHern, Zimm, and Nick J. behind him that would be pretty good. Gonzalez would be better but Guzman's not a killer.

I really doubt that anyone's setting FA contracts based on wins.