2009 Offseason: Sox sign Penny, Bard

The Red Sox finally signed somebody, but it wasn’t the big name most fans were waiting for. Still, they got two solid players in Brad Penny and Josh Bard for a small investment. Outside of targeted big-name signings, this is the way the Red Sox work, taking chances on injured pitchers and lesser-known free agents.

Penny to begin in the rotation

The Sox inked Penny to a one-year deal with $5M guaranteed and another $3M in incentives. The 30-year old RHP has pitched for the Marlins and the Dodgers and is 94-75 in his career with a 4.06 ERA.He suffered from shoulder problems in 2008, and turned in a poor season when he tried to play through it.

When healthy, Penny throws 91-93 mph and complements his fastball with a hard curveball and a changeup (last year it was classified as a splitter by PITCHf/x). He attacks hitters, landing that first pitch strike about 60% of the time, and gets a decent number of ground balls (~46-48%).

This signing is reminiscent of the Wade Miller experiment back in 2005. Penny has been a pretty good starter in the National League, and the Sox need innings, so it’s a flyer worth taking. I expect that Penny will start the year as the 5th starter for the Red Sox behind Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield. Many have pointed out that this signing makes it appear that Justin Masterson will stay in the bullpen (or he could be traded). That’s a good move by the Sox, given Masterson’s iffy control and his numbers being dependent on a ridiculously low BABIP last season. Once again, if Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden want to break into this rotation, they will have to earn it (or just wait for an injury to occur).

2009 Projection: Brad Penny
27 GS, 10 W, 163 IP, 16 HR, 56 BB, 112 K, 4.26 ERA and 1.40 WHIP

I’d be ecstatic with that kind of a performance, and he’s capable, but remember that he’s got a bad shoulder and he’s 7-11 with a 5.08 ERA in Inter-League play. Good thing we only need him as a 5th starter.

The return of Bard

If Bard’s name sounds familiar, it should. He was acquired from Cleveland in the deal for Coco Crisp, then groomed as the new backup catcher in 2006; when he struggled with Wakefield’s knuckleball, he was dealt to San Diego in a rare panic move by the front office in order to get Doug Mirabelli back.

The 30-year old catcher has now agreed to a one-year, $1.6M deal for 2009. If Jason Varitek doesn’t return, Bard is good enough that he could platoon with George Kottaras and they wouldn’t be horrible this year; he is also cheap enough that he could be a backup if Tek does come back. This really puts the pressure on Varitek to sign on Boston’s terms or go somewhere else.

Bard isn’t that great a hitter, but he does have a good approach at the plate. He’s a switch-hitter, doesn’t strike out much, and is patient at the dish. From the right-hand side, he’s a career .288/.341/.443 hitter, and he’s .256/.330/.376 from the other side. If anything, his splits make him a better platoon partner for the left-handed hitting Kottaras than Varitek, who was terrible from the left side last season. Bard doesn’t have much power, but he will make contact and protect the plate pretty well.

2009 Projection: Josh Bard
.288/.369/.419 with 5 HR and 36 RBI in 272 AB

That projection is a tad optimistic and needs to be regressed a little bit; I’m working on that for all of my projections. This would be a very good year from him, and I’d take that from my starting catcher. Still, Bill James has him at .268/.337/.392 for the year, so he does have potential.


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