Under The Knife: The Penny Trade

by Will Carroll


With reports flying of an impending deal involving Bartolo Colon and Brad Penny, UTK took a look at the principles in the deal and comes away wondering if anyone asked the doctors about this.

Colon is a regular at the top of the PAP lists here at BP and has long been regarded as overused. Last year in Montreal, Colon pitched well, but seemed to hit a wall in mid-August. That this wall appeared after a pair of outings that by almost any measure was abusive (130 pitches twice in three starts; 40 pitches after losing effective velocity) should be no surprise to anyone. Colon remained a decent starter for the rest of the season, but his decline in strikeout rate is certainly worrisome.

While publicly stating that Colon merely "lost focus" once the Expos were out of the pennant chase, some within the organization suggested that Colon was dealing with tendonitis in the later stages of the season. Colon has never been one to miss meals and his conditioning has been a major concern his entire career, which when combined with his likelihood of an injury makes this writer wonder how well he could handle an extensive rehabilitation program.

On the other end of this deal is Brad Penny, one of the three walking, tossing poster children for pitcher abuse in the Florida rotation. Penny avoided his usual overuse by coming up with a lame elbow in mid-May as well as dealing with Beckett-like blisters later in the season. Rumors circulated fairly regularly last season that Penny's elbow was not the only concern, but that his shoulder had come up abnormal during an MRI. While tears were not seen, sources indicated that Penny had some lesions inside his shoulder capsule and according to some reports he may have the dreaded Hill-Sachs lesions that would imply rotator cuff problems.

Penny, as a power pitcher with a history of overuse and questionable mechanics, is as close to a ticking time bomb without setting off the new detectors at airports as a player can be.

Without knowing the full details of the deal and all players involved, this trade appears quite worrisome for all concerned. Florida may be willing to take on Colon's salary to reduce their risk of paying a guy to rehab, while Cincinnati may be willing to take on an injury risk such as Penny due to Don Gullett's success with this type of player. Montreal, on the other hand, drops salary and gains some big-name prospects, including Adrian Gonzalez and Don Levinski, rated as Florida's #3 and #5 prospects respectively by Kevin Goldstein. For once, we may come away saying that Omar Minaya made out like a bandit.

Will Carroll is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.


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