Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The market for Brad Penny

Brad Penny and Tom Glavine might soon have something in common. Glavine was cast aside Wednesday so the Braves could promote heralded young starter Tommy Hanson. Penny might soon be traded to make room for heralded young starter Clay Buchholz -- or, at the other end of the spectrum, 43-year-old certain Hall of Famer John Smoltz.

The two would be linked in another way, too: The Braves' release of Glavine could have an impact on the trade market for Penny.

Penny has demonstrated that he's healthy enough to be a capable starter -- his ERA in May was 4.17 to go along with a 28-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But Glavine threw six scoreless innings in his last rehab start and has seen his velocity climb from 76-78 miles an hour in spring training to 83-86 miles an hour in recent weeks. He had a 5.54 ERA in 13 starts a year ago before succumbing to shoulder and elbow injuries. He never was a power pitcher, and his guts and guile might still make him a worthwhile pickup for a contending team.

The big factor in Glavine's favor, too, is that no one has to give up anything in trade to acquire him.

Penny still might be more appealing because he's proven he's all the way back from his shoulder surgery and can pitch in the major leagues. He had two disastrous outings in April but has a 4.07 ERA in his other eight starts this season; he's pitched into the seventh inning three times in his last five starts and hasn't walked anyone in his last 15 2/3 innings on the mound.

But Glavine still is Glavine, and if you don't have to give up a prospect, he might be worth a flier. Some of the same teams that might be thinking about Penny might all of a sudden be thinking about Glavine, too. Some of those potential suitors:

Philadelphia: Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton both have ERAs in the vicinity of 6.00, and Brett Myers is likely to undergo season-ending hip surgery.
* Glavine or Penny? Penny. The Phillies have a deep stable of prospects and can afford to move someone for more of a sure thing. Moyer and ace Cole Hamels both are lefties, so it's not as though landing a lefty like Glavine is a top priority.

New York: Oliver Perez was a disaster from Opening Day until he was dispatched to the minor leagues to find himself. Tim Redding (9.20 ERA in three starts) isn't the answer, either.
* Glavine or Penny? Glavine. The lefty pitched for the Mets for five seasons before returning to the Braves a year ago, and while he failed to get out of the first inning in the start that capped the Mets' collapse in 2007, there's something to be said for a 3.97 ERA over five seasons.

Milwaukee: Lefty Manny Parra allowed 10 earned runs in four innings in his last start; he allowed eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings two starts before that. Journeyman Jeff Suppan, on the other hand, allowed five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Cardinals on May 26 and has a 5.09 ERA for the season.
* Glavine or Penny? Glavine. If Parra gets bumped from the rotation, the Brewers wouldn't have a lefty -- and that's where Glavine fits in. The Brewers do have a handful of catching prospects in their system to deal, but it's hard to imagine the Red Sox getting a catcher in exchange for Penny who's any better than George Kottaras.

St. Louis: Beyond ace Adam Wainwright, on pace for his third straight season with a sub-4.00 ERA as a starter, the Cardinals have zero sure things in their rotation. Joel Piniero isn't going to have a 3.86 ERA all season. Chris Carpenter is an injury risk. Kyle Lohse is Kyle Lohse.
* Glavine or Penny? Penny. The Cardinals don't have a ton of depth in their farm system from which to deal and don't have a lefty on their staff. But Penny appears to be the safer bet from a health standpoint, and the Cardinals can't afford to be burned too many more times.

Cincinnati: The five-man rotation appears set, but Bronson Arroyo has a 5.37 ERA and Micah Owings isn't much better at 5.10. Still, though, the Reds were just 2 1/2 games back entering play on Wednesday.
* Glavine or Penny? Glavine. The Reds weren't supposed to contend this year, and it doesn't make sense to give up any kind of valuable prospect for Penny only to finish third or fourth. It might be worth taking a flier on Glavine, though, just in case his experience can help in a pennant race.

Los Angeles: The Dodgers are running away with the National League West, but their starting pitchers have given them just 22 quality starts this season -- third-worst in the National League. Beyond Chad Billingsley (2.80 ERA), Randy Wolf (3.21 ERA) and youngster Clayton Kershaw (4.43 ERA), there's not much there. Even Jeff Weaver and Eric Milton have made three starts apiece for the Dodgers this season.
* Glavine or Penny? Glavine. Wolf and Kershaw both are lefties, but it's not going to be easy for Penny to go back to Los Angeles having said this last spring: "There were a few people I didn’t get along with on the coaching staff that don’t respect people. I mean, me and Joe (Torre) got along fine. I just feel like nobody had my back there. You’re in the clubhouse and you have players coming up to you saying coaches are saying this to them about you. And that’s just not a good situation to be in. ... I'm so glad to be out of there."

Toronto: The fading Blue Jays have seen their pitching fall apart over the last two weeks -- as a team, their ERA is 5.98 since May 20. Ricky Romero, for example, had a 1.71 ERA through three starts but strained an oblique in April and has been shelled twice since his return.
* Glavine or Penny? Glavine. It's simple. Unless the Blue Jays blow the Red Sox away with their offer, Penny isn't going to a division rival. But wouldn't it be intriguing to see Glavine give the American League a shot?

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