Buchholz’s Callup Could Signal Penny’s Departure


Jul 17, 2009

Buchholz's Callup Could Signal Penny's Departure Two weeks until the MLB trade deadline, and there are plenty of questions lingering about what the Red Sox will do.

Will they go hard after Roy Halladay? And will they be able to move Julio Lugo, who was designated for assignment on Friday?

But the move that is most plausible for the Red Sox may have nothing to do with either Halladay or Lugo.

Clay Buchholz started against Toronto on Friday night. Ostensibly, it was to give each member of the rotation his share of rest following the All-Star break. Others would argue that it was an audition for the Blue Jays — what better way for the Red Sox to showcase their premier prospect than by using him against the very team that they might trade him to?

But maybe, just maybe, the Red Sox are actually committed to giving Clay Buchholz a shot to stay in the major league rotation. No, he wasn’t very good in that spot last year – in fact, he was outright awful – but he’s showed time and time again that he’s too good for Triple-A at this point.

And if you think about it, putting him in the No. 5 spot isn’t that much of a risk. When the Red Sox won in 2007, their worst starters during the year were Tim Wakefield (4.76 ERA) and Julian Tavarez (5.15). In 2004, they were Wakefield (4.87) and Derek Lowe (5.42). Despite the troubles of those guys – and having Bronson Arroyo on the playoff roster in ’04 – the Red Sox were crowned World Series champions both times.

So it’s pretty clear, the team can afford to take a chance on their young righty.

Of course, if Buchholz were to assume the No. 5 spot, someone probably would be booted from the rotation – most likely Brad Penny.

But what’s the problem with replacing Penny with Buchholz? Penny is basically a six-inning pitcher, and historically, he’s not been good in the second half of the season.

His record is 66-46 before the break (165 starts, 987 innings) and 34-32 after it (97 starts, 567 innings). If you’re wondering why Penny has thrown so many more innings in the season’s early months, just take a look at his body. It’s not a mystery why this guy tends to break down. Nor is it a mystery why his career playoff ERA is 6.26.

Penny’s a good No. 5 starter, there’s no doubt, but his value right now is probably as high as it could possibly be. The Red Sox don’t need Halladay, and they’re not going to get squat for Lugo. The trade that they’re most likely to make is one for a left-handed bat off the bench – someone to provide insurance for Mike Lowell in case he makes another trip to the disabled list – and Penny could be the perfect trade chip to make that acquisition. 

Guys like Garret Atkins, Mark Teahen, Nick Johnson and Chad Tracy are all going to be available in the next couple of weeks, and Brad Penny very well could represent the best offer for any of them. It’s not like the Rockies are going to demand a blue-chip prospect for Atkins and his .229 batting average.

Maybe this was the Red Sox’ plan all along – sign Brad Penny, use him for half a season, then get what they could for him at the deadline. The Red Sox have plenty of pitching; Brad Penny is not and never was integral to the team’s success.

And who knows, maybe Daisuke Matsuzaka will show up again and remember how to win games.

Even if he doesn’t, trading Penny could be a worthwhile move for Boston. Buchholz has done all he can in the minors. It’s time to give him another shot at the big time.

Who’s hot?
Does anybody remember when Josh Beckett’s ERA was 7.22 at the end of April? He’s been absolutely lights out since then, going 9-1 with a 2.14 ERA and earning a spot on the All-Star team. And for anybody that thinks the Red Sox need Halladay, all you need to do is check the numbers and realize that the team already has an ace.

Who’s not?
It appears Julio Lugo’s tenure in Boston is finally over … and it’s about time. After signing a four-year, $36 million deal in 2007, Lugo never lived up to expectations, hitting just 10 dingers in three seasons with the team. The Red Sox tried “desperately” to trade him and offered to pay nearly his entire contract – and still, nobody wanted him. But hey, he’ll probably catch on somewhere, and maybe this time his job won’t be stolen by a 30-year-old career journeyman named Nick Green.

Quote of the week
"These stallions in the bullpen, it's not necessary to match up. It was their inning. There's no concern about matching up with those three guys in the bullpen. It's just their inning."
–American League manager Joe Maddon on having Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera in his bullpen at the All-Star Game. Papelbon earned the win, Nathan got a hold and Rivera closed it out as the AL beat the NL to extend its unbeaten streak to 13 years.

Opposing star
The Red Sox have managed to avoid Roy Halladay all year, but that won’t happen this time around. The man who’s been all over the rumor mill will take on Jon Lester on Sunday in an attempt to win his 11th game of the year. Doc hasn’t been great in July, allowing eight earned runs in 14 innings, but his season ERA still stands at a sparkling 2.85. Expect Sunday’s matchup to be a low-scoring affair.

Series of the week
The Red Sox have played quite a few lousy teams over the past month, but the Rangers will be no walk in the (ball)park come Monday. As of Friday, Texas stood at nine games over .500 and was just two games behind the Angels for the AL West lead. With a lineup that includes Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton, this is an offense to look out for.

Pitching wins ballgames, and the Red Sox only get more of it with the addition of Buchholz. The Blue Jays and Rangers are good teams, but neither one can match the pitching depth of Boston. With the Yankees playing a weekend series against the first-place Tigers, the Sox stand in good position to lengthen their three-game lead in the East.

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