LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers declined the 2009 option for backup catcher Gary Bennett, paying a $50,000 buyout instead of exercising a $900,000 option.
What? No, the hell with him. I’d basically forgotten he even existed. The chances of Gary Bennett getting $900,000 were so small that I’m surprised the Dodgers didn’t decline the option before the season even ended.
The Dodgers declined the $9.25 million option for 2009 on pitcher Brad Penny and paid him a $2 million buyout, allowing the 30-year-old right-hander to become a free agent. After winning 16 games in both 2006 and 2007, Penny went 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 2008, spending three stints on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis and he missed the postseason.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I’m not in favor of this move, since I already advocated picking up his option in my 2009 plan, but I still think this is a huge mistake. This is what I said in that post:
Let me first say, if it turns out that he’s more seriously injured than we know and he does need surgery, then forget it, buy him out. I’m going on the assumption that he’s not that seriously hurt, because as I detailed after his last appearance, dudes with bum shoulders don’t hit 96 on the gun. Nearly all of his problems seemed to be easily chalked up to rust, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find out for sure that placing him on the DL was simply because they needed the roster spot and didn’t think Penny would have a chance to pitch enough to work his way back into shape during a playoff push. So why am I picking this up? Two reasons, the first of which being, he was excellent as a Dodger before 2008. His ERA+ was better than league average in every year since he arrived in LA, and 2007 was fantastic at 16-4 with a 159 ERA+. I have a hard time believing that he’s just “lost it” – again, barring a more serious injury we don’t know about. The second reason is, it’s cheap. Since the $8.75m option has a $2m buyout, we’re only talking about $6.75m here. Do you really think you could go out and find a pitcher with his track record for one year, $6.75m? Of course not. This is exactly the kind of gamble a large-market team like the Dodgers should be taking.
My post said $8.75m because that’s what Cot’s Baseball Contracts said; I’m not sure why there’s a discrepancy between that and the other story). But regardless of which salary number is correct, you’re just not going to be able to get a pitcher with his pedigree at that salary number. It’s really easy to forget with how bad Penny was for most of the year, but he got off to a very good start – 2.89 ERA in April. Then he got injured and admittedly tried to pitch through it, instead of telling the team. Imagine if he’d shut it down sooner – instead of having an ugly 6.27 ERA next to his name, maybe it’d only have been around 4.00 had he not been on the mound pushing through while injured. By comparision, look at Rafael Furcal. All we heard all summer was how great he was early in the season because he was still hitting about .366 when he went down. What if he’d tried to play through it and was down to .240 by the time he finally hung it up? I’m quite sure no one would be looking at Furcal the same way they are this offseason. To say that Penny can’t perform any more after several very good seasons is, in my opinion, a big mistake.
Also, it’s certainly not like the Dodgers couldn’t use the starting pitching depth. Right now, your starting rotation consists of Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, and Clayton Kershaw, and all three come with their own questions of age and workload. With Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux likely departing, Jason Schmidt an eternal unknown, and James McDonald an untested rookie, you don’t think you could use a guy who as recently as last year, I was looking into whether or not he was having the best non-Koufax LA Dodger starting pitching season ever? Because if you don’t think he’s going to be able to go elsewhere and get more years and bigger paychecks than one year and $7.25m (forget the $2m buyout, he gets it regardless), you’re absolutely wrong – assuming doctors clear his arm. Meanwhile, the Dodgers could be short on starters and paying much more than that for a lesser pitcher.
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness