Of the many subtle changes to their roster made recently, the Kansas City Royals‘ signing of veteran starter Brad Penny caught my fancy more than most. Whether or not Penny gets time in MLB this season, his addition to the Royals is a welcome one.
Penny will turn 36 this May, but there’s no telling what’s left in the veteran right-hander’s tank. Sources say he’ll enter camp in Surprise, Arizona as a starter after a short stint last season as a reliever with the San Francisco Giants. He spent the previous season as a starter with the Detroit Tigers, posting a 5.3 ERA and a .500 record in 31 starts.
A longer look at Penny’s career stats indicate that whenever he’s healthy, he’ll provide his team average-at-worst starting pitching and eat up significant innings. Batters have a markedly better time against him in the second half of the season though — his BAA, SLGA and OBPA all increase in the second half by at least 10 points, and the SLGA steadily increases throughout the season, ballooning from .380 in April/March to .452 in September/October. Age surely won’t help to reverse this pattern in 2014.
Although Penny will find it difficult to pitch his way onto KC’s starting rotation this year, this is still a savvy, if not obvious way to improve the depth of the franchise’s pitching staff. This is a low-risk move for veteran talent that only the biggest Royals naysayers will criticize. It may not be like signing Masahiro Tanaka, but it isn’t a bad way to improve the franchise.
From my seat, I can only look at the stats, read the news and so on, while the guys in charge of making this deal are in touch with Penny’s personality, demeanor and motivation level. They have far more tools to assess his value, whether it translates to on-field production or simply to depth and veteran leadership.
As of now, Penny seems like a lock to start for the Omaha Storm Chasers, and that’s just fine. Fans have no reason to be bummed about having a respected, two-time World Series champion as a backup option.