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Smoltz, Penny won't change Boston's buy-low rotation plans

Oct 16, 2009, 1:53 PM EDT

Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald wrote a good article today about the Red Sox’s rotation plans heading into the offseason, noting that this season’s low-risk, high-reward deals for John Smoltz and Brad Penny working out poorly won’t stop general manager Theo Epstein from pursuing other pitchers with injury issues.
Here’s what Epstein had to say about Smoltz, Penny, and his offseason plans:

There’s a tendency on the heels of some of those buy-low, one-year deals not working out to go in the other direction, and say we’re not going to do that, we’re going to avoid anyone who’s coming off a bad season or anyone who’s got health concerns. But the reality is, you sign one-year, buy-low deals for a reason because a lot of them don’t work out.

But they provide you flexibility. So when they do work out, hopefully you have an option and you can keep that player for next year. If they don’t work out, you move on and you have flexibility both during that season and in future years to address needs.

Epstein went on to say that the Red Sox will likely pursue another buy-low starter to pair with Tim Wakefield at the back of a rotation fronted by Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Clay Buchholz. McAdam mentions Ben Sheets as an option and calls Brandon Webb “the most interesting of those pitchers” if the Diamondbacks decline his $8.5 million option for 2010, but speculates that Rich Harden is a more likely target for the Red Sox.
Harden had a mediocre 9-9 record and 4.06 ERA for the Cubs, but led baseball with 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings and has a 3.39 career ERA. Of course, he hasn’t thrown 150 innings in a season since 2004 and has never logged 200 innings. He’s an ideal buy-low target, but my guess is that Harden is young enough and dominant enough when healthy that some team will take a multi-year, big-money gamble on him. And it won’t be Boston.

  1. vic - Oct 16, 2009 at 2:43 PM

    Leave it to legend in his own mind Epstein to refuse to admit error, a very COSTLY one, in putting faith in Smoltz and Penny as SUPPOSED low risk/high reward guys.
    So, instead of admitting HIS mistake, he instead insists that HE is SOooooh much smarter than everybody else and will do the exact same thing all over again. (And while liking to CLAIM “small market” status, EPSTEIN’S mistake involved not only seeing loss after loss as he kept on trotting Penny and Smoltz out to the mound, but ALSO involved “eating” a huge part of $10.5 Million, a luxury which REAL “small market” teams can ill afford).
    There’s one definition of insanity which says that it’s doing the same thing, over and over again, but EXPECTING *DIFFERENT* results. In this case, it might not be insanity, but it’s surely a healthy dose of HUBRIS on the part of Epstein.

  2. Real Boston Fan - Oct 17, 2009 at 8:58 AM

    The point is this approach has risk. Ditching it after one year because the results were’nt good is like drafting two college pitchers and never doing so again if they each have one bad year.
    You need to use your head to make decisions not your heart.
    Keep it up Theo.

  3. GimmeSomeSteel - Oct 17, 2009 at 3:15 PM

    Theo isn’t as dumb as fans of the Yankees and other Red Sox haters think, and he’s nowhere near as smart as he and most Red Sox fans think. All that revenue can cover a lot of mistakes (ask the Yankees), especially if you win a World Series (this century, don’t ask the Yankees).
    I can’t quantify it, but IMO the Red Sox looked TIRED this year, as if the years of being a contender have taken their toll, somewhat reminiscent of the Yankees in ’06-’07-’08. They looked like a post-championship team without being one. I never had the feeling that they’d really kick it into high gear.

  4. peteinfla - Oct 17, 2009 at 6:36 PM

    Hey Steel man,
    What does this have to do with the Yankees? Neither the article by Aaron not the posts above you even mention them! Only your post. Sounds like you can’t deal with the Yankees still playing while your Sox are not. Sour Grapes!
    Furthermore, it is amazing how Red Sox Nation complains about the Yeankees payroll. Check it out, The Red Sox have the 4th highest payroll themselves, higher than 26 other teams, but no Red Sox fan ever wants to acknowledge that. Pretty convenient. Stop like whining like Boston is a small market team already!
    Lastly dummy, remember the year 2000? Are you not smart enough to figure out that 2000 is in this century? Or do you think the century started in 2004 when you FINALLY won a world series? Guess what? If NY wins this year, the century is tied 2 to 2. Of course you probably don’t want to hear about the score from last century do you? NY 25, Bos 3

  5. willmose - Oct 18, 2009 at 1:41 AM

    I describe the deals as high money, low return. Low risk isn’t a very good description of pitcher’s coming off arm surgery. Likewise, I would not describe high rewards as paying big money ($15+ million for Smoltz and Penny) for next to nothing in return. But what do I know, I would have kept Manny and the Sox would have gone to the series last year and this. Epstein must be reading the Al Davis book on execellence.

  6. Nacho - Oct 18, 2009 at 5:29 PM

    I’m a Yankee fan, but I don’t have a problem with what Boston is doing regarding trying to bolster their core with pitchers that are coming off injury. I thought it was good strategy. Hopefully NY will attempt the same thing now that we have filled our gargantuan holes with last year’s acquisitions. When players don’t develop initially or don’t excel early guys like Penny and Smoltz are pretty good bets to fill in nicely. Unfortunately these two pitchers were in the NL their whole careers and it takes time to acclimate to nine good hitters vs seven and a half most times. Smoltz just needed more time to comeback. I think he would have been fine eventually. The guys a Hall of Famer for crying out loud. Penny served his purpose too considering the injuries to Matsuzaka and The Waker and Buchholz’s slow development. The problem in Boston, aside from Ortiz’s bat speed, is that there is no fearsome hitter like Manny Ramirez anymore. I think they would have won it all last year if they had kept Ramirez. Bay is a fine player, but nobody fears him. Youkilis is their best hitter and Pedroia is a nice player as well, but after that there is really no thunder save Martinez. I’m sure that will change this offseason, but as good as players like Ellsbury and Drew are, this offense no longer scares anyone. They need a 1B, 3B or catcher, a shortstop (though I like Lowrie more than most) plus whatever happens in LF. Pitching is not the problem. They’ll be right back at it next year. Obviously they are a strong franchise and I completely agree with the poster above who says that Eptein is not the genius Red Sox Nation thinks he is nor is he the luckiest guy (did he make that Beckett trade?…Since Hanley Ramirez is the best player in the deal I don’t think he did…that’s not really his style…he’d rather trade bags of balls for Schilling or Martinez to cash strapped franchises…and I don’t blame him…I swear the Beckett-Lowell for Ramirez and decent prospects is the fairest deal they’ve made in decades) in Boston. He’s just an astute young kid that people are mostly jealous of. I’d like to believe we have our own version, but our payroll obscures even handed judgment even though Boston’s is number four and the same thing should apply. Just my two cents…

  7. JP - Oct 18, 2009 at 6:57 PM

    Smoltz had a decent ERA+. He was far from helped by a horrendous defense. And apparently you’re the complete moron on this thread. The 21st century is defined as 2001-2100. Better to keep silent and let other people think you’re an idiot than utter total nonsense and remove all doubt. Also why don’t you check the stats before you start rambling. It’s 26-5 last century thanks. And many yankee fans are willing to admit that alot of it had to do with luck. Do you think they could’ve dominated with free agency?
    And Boston’s 5 World Series last century is just inexcusable. They fielded some pretty good teams, but just couldn’t win.

  8. whoman69 - Oct 19, 2009 at 8:59 AM

    The fact is if this was any other market besides the Yanks/Sox then this wouldn’t be an issue. The fact that a team with a rotation like that can talk about adding another pitcher they call inexpensive while other teams can’t even afford the ‘discount’. The Red Sox were not counting on Smoltz in the playoffs. He was a bonus if he could contribute. What hurt the Sox was the fact that Beckett and Lester were fighting off injury. Any other team without its top 2 starters at top efficiency would be easily written off in the playoffs. Why should their fans expect Smotlz to come in and be their savior. The Cardinals had it right in their use of Smotlz. If he could have helped them in the playoffs it would have been a great boon. They weren’t relying on him. The fact that some Sox fans were depending on Smoltz shows how out of sync the economic system in baseball is.

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