Friday, August 28, 2009

Collecting B(r)ad Penny

I don't know which is the more daunting:

* The prospect of facing the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs with a rotation of Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing; or

* The projected starters for Minnesota in next week's series against the Chicago White Sox: TBA on Monday, Blackburn on Tuesday, Duensing on Wednesday.

As the postseason roster deadline draws steadily nearer — a player has to be on the 40-man roster before Sept. 1 to be eligible — the Twins are said to be scrambling for pitching help.

And the machinations are fascinating. Brad Penny — shown above — no longer fits on the Red Sox roster, and is on release waivers. The Twins appear to be in prime position to claim him, and the 5.61 ERA doesn't accurately reflect how well he's pitched. His walk to strikeout ratio is fine, the strikeout rate is good enough. He's no star, but he can help.

ESPN's report is focused on National League teams, with Buster Olney suggesting that there will be little interest in assuming the remainder of Penny's contract. It would probably cost the Twins about $200,000 per start to claim Penny, but the general consensus is that Penny's more interested in returning to the easier National league, so if the Twins want him, they'll have to pay.

Still, there's a notion that Penny assured the Red Sox he won't sign with an AL contender, and despite Joe Christensen's suggestion (the first link) that Penny won't want to walk away from his current deal, there's no guarantee he'll accept an AL waiver claim.

Another rumor concerns the Twins and Rich Harden of the Chicago Cubs. A Harden deal will be tougher to pull off for two reasons:

1) National League teams have priority on him in trade waivers, and Harden is said to have been claimed by at least one NL club. In which case, the Twins can't get him, period.

2) Harden is a Type A free agent-to-be, meaning that the Cubs might be unwilling to move him for less than the equivalent of the draft picks they could get if he signs elsewhere this winter. (It's also possible the Cubs just want to shed the remainder of his salary; they are, after all, in bankruptcy court, even if that's largely a formality to clear the decks for the pending franchise sale.)

My guesses: If Harden goes anywhere, it will be to the Colorado Rockies. And the Twins will ante up for Penny. But by the time we know on the last, the White Sox series will be under way.

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