At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Monday, March 20, 2006

BoSox Trade Innings for Homers

– Arroyo to Reds for Pena Leaves Sox Fans Feeling Conflicted –

The Boston Red Sox today traded pitcher Bronson Arroyo and a satchel of cash (thought to total $1.5 million) for Cincinnati Reds outfielder Wily Mo Pena*, and the debate over the merits of the deal began almost immediately.

People who believe a team can’t ever have enough pitching are wholly puzzled by the transaction, while those who believe the Sox had too many starters find it to be entirely sensible. My problem is that I hold opinions on both sides of this particular logical fence, and it took me nearly the entire construction-tortured ride back from Cape Cod this afternoon to decide that I like the move more than I don’t.

Critics are pointing to Arroyo’s durability and flexibility, and faintly accuse the Red Sox of behaving in bad faith given the pitcher’s recent re-signing for a hefty home-town discount. However, the club specifically made no promises concerning Arroyo’s tradability – a fact his agent first stressed privately with his client and then later with the media – and it does have an uncharacteristically (for the Sox) large number of quality arms in the high minors (e.g., Delcarmen, Lester, Hansen). So even if Arroyo’s presence is missed, I suspect it will be more than suitably covered at least by the All Star break, and certainly next year.

Detractors also are citing Pena’s frighteningly high strikeout rate (one every 2.89 at bats in ’04 and ’05 combined) and lack of walks (only 42 for the period). However, let’s not forget that the Sox won a World Series with Mark Bellhorn in the lineup, and all he did was put up numbers for strikeouts (one every 2.82 at bats over the past two years) and walks (52 times over that span) that nearly mirror Pena’s. So it’s a wash in that regard, with a tip toward Pena given his decided advantage in home runs (45 to 25 in total).

I love what Arroyo has brought to the Red Sox in terms of both pitching and personality, and I certainly would have liked to see him remain with the team for at least one of the three years covered by his new contract. But it is certainly true that the Sox could use some additional power to complement Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, and since you have to give something to get something, this may well be the best way to fill the immediate need without sacrificing the future possibilities.

* This is not a typo: Wily Mo spells his name with one "L" in the same way former Sox manager Jimy Williams used only one "M." Not what the commissioner meant by "contraction," I'm sure!

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