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As every day trader knows, the key to success is having a knack for buying low and selling high.
As far as Brad Penny is concerned, the Red Sox have likely missed their chance to execute this most basic of strategies.
Signing Penny was an excellent move. Although coming off an injury-plagued season, it was only two years ago that Penny went 16-4 for the Dodgers. Sox GM Theo Epstein, as he has demonstrated in the past, loves these low-risk, high-reward moves. If it doesn’t work out, the Sox are out a (very) few bucks, nothing more. If it does work out, the Sox get a talented player on the cheap.
On July 4th, Penny allowed 2 runs over six innings against Seattle, which capped off a very nice five-start run in which he allowed only seven earned runs in 28 2/3 innings, and lowered his ERA to a season-low 4.67. Furthermore, he showed the ability to be clutch—remember those six shutout innings against the Yankees at Fenway?
That was Penny’s high-water mark, and it should have been the moment the Sox decided to make a deal. Now, it may be too late. Penny will bring a 6-4 record and 5.02 ERA into Friday night’s start against the Baltimore Orioles. As a stock analyst would put it, he is trending in the wrong direction. His career numbers also work against the Sox. In 165 career starts before the All-Star break, Penny is 66-46, with a 3.97 ERA. On the other hand, he is just 34-33, with a 4.37 ERA, in the second half. Even at a time when starting pitching is at a premium, the Sox are unlikely to get much for him in a straight-up deal.
As their recent five-game losing streak demonstrates, the Sox need a bat. The trade with Pittsburgh for Adam LaRoche is a nice move, and a hedge against Mike Lowell going on the DL again, but they could have done better, and they might yet have to make a few more moves.
Every chip the Sox can bring to the table counts now. Penny was a nice chip. On July 4th. He might not be worth as much when they decide to cash him in.