May 24 – Happy Birthday Brad Penny

pennyWhat’s a penny worth? Well back in December 2008, Theo Epstein thought the amount was $5,000,000. That’s what the former Red Sox GM agreed to pay veteran right-hander Brad Penny for a one-year deal to be part of Boston’s 2009 starting rotation.

The Blackwell, Oklahoma native had split the first ten seasons of his big league career pitching for the Marlins and Dodgers. He first grabbed national attention with Florida in 2003, when he went 14-10 during the regular season and beat the Yankees twice in that year’s Fall Classic. Later in Los Angeles, he had been a two-time all star and led the league in wins in 2006.

Penny had an off-year during his last season in L.A, compounded by a stay on the DL. The Dodgers had paid him more than $9 million in 2008, but concerns about the health of his pitching arm drove down hs price on the free agent market. In addition to the $5 million Epstein guaranteed him, his deal with Boston included over $3 million more in incentive bonuses.

Talk about a lucky penny, though his ERA hovered near six by the end of his second month as a Red Sox, Penny’s record at that time was 5-1. That good fortune however abandoned him pretty quickly. By the end of August his ERA hadn’t moved and he had lost seven of his last nine decisions. His coup-de-grace in Beantown was an eight-run, four-inning hammering the Yankees pasted on him in late August of that season. After that disastrous start, the Boston front-office announced that Tim Wakefield would be taken out of the bullpen to replace Penny in the team’s rotation. Penny responded by asking for his release and when Epstein complied, the pitcher signed with the Giants where he won 4 of his 5 decisions with an ERA of just 2.59, which I guess proves that you get more value for a penny in San Francisco than you do in Boston.

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