In the wake of AJ Burnett opting out, another flame throwing right handed pitcher has been granted free agency. Today the Dodgers declined the $9 million dollar option on Brad Penny, who never really got going in 2008. Totally understand this move from the Dodgers perspective... how could you commit $9 mil to a injury prone starter when you need to spend every dime available for Manny Ramirez.
Penny dealt with a array of arm and shoulder problems this season, which prevented him from successfully locating his pitches. I vividly recall Penny pitching against the Mets this season, still throwing in the high 90s, but Penny seemed to miss on his location more often than not. Throwing 98+ can only get you so far when you can't locate pitches. Ultimately, this season was a waste for Penny.
With that said, I would happily sign Penny to a contract. There is no way that Penny will garner the amount of attention or dollars that AJ Burnett will because of Penny's injuries and poor performance. But I ask, who would you rather sign?
-Burnett: 5 year deal/$12-$15 mil per season/injury prone/flame thrower/31 years old/lots of K's
-Penny: 1-3 year deal/$6-$10 mil per season/injury prone/flame thrower/30 years old
So as you can see, the differences between these two are slim. The main difference is that Penny was hurt last season, while Burnett was not. Good timing of AJ's part...now he can get the long term deal, while Penny, in all likelihood, settles for a shorter contract. But you know what, Penny's willingness to sign a short deal is a positive. How many top flight starters can you sign to a 1-3 year deal when he's still in his prime? Not many. Furthermore, since Penny will have a tough time commanding top dollar on this market, so he will be motivated to show teams that he is worth the big bucks in the years to come. Simply put, Penny has alot to prove. I'll take my chances on any pitcher who throws 98+ with a point to prove.
So while some view Penny as damaged goods, I see him as a fantastic opportunity. And I would take Penny and his contract any day over AJ Burnett. Hope your not listening, Brian Cashman. Look for Penny to have a huge 2009...as long as he's healthy.