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Red Sox: Wily Mo Pena

With Matt Clement struggling, David Wells on the DL (again) and Jonathan Papelbon busy in the bullpen, a lot of Sox fans have been sighing for Bronson Arroyo. Having him start yesterday's game instead of Lenny DiNardo would have made me feel a whole lot better, too. But I still have to support Theo's decision to deal Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena in the offseason.

Why Arroyo was expendable:
Bronson was there for us in a lot of tough spots, but his statistics have been rather mediocre (lifetime 33-33 in 589 IP, 4.59 ERA, 1.36 WHIP). He sports a 7.41 ERA in the playoffs. And at 29 years old, he doesn't figure to improve very much from here. Since we fully expect Papelbon and Jon Lester to join Schilling, Beckett and Clement in the 2007 rotation, there really isn't room for a Bronson Arroyo. If we kept him on, he'd be an expensive middle reliever/swingman.
Why Wily Mo Pena was worth getting:
This is a 24 year-old player from the Dominican Republic with staggering power and pretty good athleticism. Consider that in his last two years, he's had 647 ABs and slugged 45 HR. That's a home run every 14.38 ABs, elite power. Of course, you know that he strikes out a ton (220 Ks in that period), as he's got a lot of holes in his swing. He came up to the bigs at age 20, and has developed some very bad habits. One of those is swinging for the fences all the time when a line drive would do (only 28 XBHs in addition to those 45 HRs in two years). Why should we believe that he'll improve here if he didn't in Cincinnati? Two reasons, and their names are David and Manny. Pena needs role models, and who better than two of baseball's elite hitters who are also Dominican?

At age 24, David Ortiz had had 762 major league at-bats. He had managed 59 doubles, but only 20 homers. Oh, and he struck out 184 times. And we all know how he turned out. Unfortunately, Pena is out of minor league options, so he can not go to Pawtucket without passing through waivers. He'll have to develop up here, but if he does, I think Pena projects to a ceiling somewhere around .275 with 35+HR a year.

Despite what you've seen the past week in right field, he can be above average defensively. When he's in shape, he actually has decent speed and could potentially play centerfield. He's got a rocket arm too.

Don't get me wrong, I love Arroyo. He's a great guy, and was always a team player who loved Boston and the fans. But this move was for the team. If he was told that he would not be traded, that's the front office's problem, and was really messed up.

Bottom line: We traded away a 29 year old #3 or #4 starter for a 24 year-old guy who could become a premier slugger. It's a calculated risk, true. But guys like Arroyo are a lot more common than guys like Pena. Can you imagine a righty-lefty-righty combo of Manny, Papi and Pena? Ouch. Then combine that with a rotation of Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Lester and Clement. Double ouch. And let's not forget a strong bullpen featuring Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen. I'm sweating just thinking about it.
David Wells is quickly losing what little favor he had with the fans. After an offseason of wanting to be traded, the surly (and burly) lefty made his first start on Wednesday, getting shelled for seven runs. There was a lot of discussion in Boston about how much Wells' incentive-laden contract had to do with that decision (he is only guaranteed $2.5 million, but makes $300k per start above 20 starts or something like that). Hey David, if you're not ready to pitch yet, that's tough. You don't deserve $300k for what you did this week. Now he's going on the DL. Maybe we needed Wells for our rotation last year, but now I am all in favor of booting the guy. As I predicted earlier, Wells will be traded or given away through waivers well before the All-Star Break.

Lefthander Lenny DiNardo will come out of the bullpen and take Wells' spot as the fifth starter in the rotation for now. DiNardo is a soft-tosser, but he's still young and looks to be a decent swingman. The Sox called up Jermaine van Buren from Pawtucket, acquired from the Cubs this offseason. Van Buren is not a fireballer, but he does have a low-90s fastball, a plus curve, a plus slider and a changeup. He has had good success the past two years in AA and AAA ball, posting sub-2.00 ERAs and saving 20+ games each season. It'll be interesting to see what he brings to the Sox bullpen.
Well, this offseason the Florida Marlins supposedly committed to rebuild around Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. In order to make the team attractive for sale or relocation, they trimmed the payroll down to about $15 million. $15 million. On the Red Sox alone, Manny makes more than that in one year, and Curt Schilling and David Ortiz (next year) come really close. Heck, half of the Yankees' roster makes that in one year. And now, it's rumored that the Marlins are looking to trade Dontrelle Willis. The hard-throwing southpaw could make an estimated $7 million next year through arbitration, so the money-conscious Marlins may be looking to move him by this year's non-waiver trade deadline.

Needless to say, either one of these guys would be an incredible acquisition for any team. Thank God the Yankees don't have to prospects to deal for these guys. But the word around Boston is that the Marlins might be willing to give up lefty Dontrelle Willis (a bona fide Cy Young candidate, BTW) for a package including Jon Lester and recently acquired Wily Mo Pena. The Red Sox have quite a few players they can dangle in addition, including Adam Stern and Dustin Pedroia. Of course, sportswriters everywhere are listing top prospects from every team as trade bait, including Felix Pie of the Cubs and Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Braves. Willis is even younger than Beckett at 24, and would be under his new team's control for 3 more seasons, making him very attractive to a big market team with prospects to deal.

If Jon Lester is such a sure thing, why should we do this deal? Because:

1. A proven major leaguer is a far better bet than the hottest prospect. Willis has shown he has what it takes to pitch a whole season and with the pressure of being a #1.
2. We will have the salary flexibility to make this move. Because we didn't sign a certain $52 million centerfielder, we can take on a young, proven ace. Also, we expect Schilling, Wakefield and Wells to come off of our payroll in the foreseeable future.
3. He's a great player and a great person. Dontrelle Willis has charisma and likeability, a very nice combination with talent. He could really shine in Boston.
4. We can rename ourselves the Boston Marlins. Willis has played with half of our infield and one of our young pitchers, and this can only help team chemistry.

For a young ace to become available like this during the season is highly unusual, and would easily change the pennant races come August and September. Boston has done pretty well with all the former Marlins so far, why stop now? Can you imagine a rotation that includes Schilling, Beckett, Willis, Wakefield and Clement? And in 2007, add in Jonathan Papelbon. Wow. And if you think I'm raving now about Dontrelle Willis, don't even get me started on Miguel Cabrera.
Cincinnati had a Glut of outfielders. We didn't have anywhere for Willy Mo to play on a consistant basis with Junior, Dunn, Kearns, Freel, and the up and coming Denorfia. Denorfia will be a better fit in the long run with the reds too because they are going to need tablesetters to go with Brandon Phillips and Felipe Lopez. They have plenty power hitters in Dunn, Kearns, and the up and coming Edwin Encarnacion.

In addition to the amount of hitters that they do have they needed help in the pitching rotation in the worst of ways. Arroyo wasn't in the same position in Boston as he is in here in Cincinnati. Cincinnati right now he is a number one or two starter whereas in Boston he wasn't even in the starting rotation at the start of the season. So thus far I think that Cincinnati has gotten the better of the deal.
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