Veteran right-handed pitcher Brad Penny is weighing an opportunity to pitch in Japan, two baseball sources said Friday.
Penny, 33 and a veteran of 12 seasons in the major leagues, has had discussions with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan's Pacific League, sources said.
Penny has attracted interest from two undisclosed major league teams, one source said. But it's uncertain whether he has received an offer from an MLB club.
Just a guess, but I suspect Penny can make a great deal more (guaranteed) money in Japan than he might in our major leagues. I'm not sure why a Japanese team would offer him a great deal more money, but reputation seems to count for a lot over there. Even more there than here.
Because, man, was Brad Penny terrible last season. His 5.30 ERA with the Tigers in 31 starts could have been worse, considering his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 1.2 and he gave up 24 home runs in 182 innings. Penny has never been a big strikeout pitcher, but his 3.7 K's per nine innings in 2011 was quite beyond the pale.
Pitchers are strange creatures and you can go broke trying to figure what they'll do next, but Penny's career as an effective staring pitcher in our Major League Baseball seems to be essentially over.
Which isn't to suggest that he's not enjoyed an impressive career.
In 2001, the Florida Marlins' rotation featured 23-year-old Brad Penny, along with impressive 24-year-olds A.J. Burnett and Ryan Dempster. You look at three young starters with that much talent -- and they obviously had a lot of talent -- and your mind can take you to all sorts of fantastical places.
It's slightly more than a decade later, and Penny's probably gone from the majors with a 101 ERA+; Burnett's become a bad joke in the Bronx, but has a 105 career ERA+; and Dempster's a mainstay for the Cubs, but has a slightly below average career ERA+ (98).
Essentially those three guys, with so much promise early in their careers, have been merely average.
Except they have not been. It's above average for all three of them to lasted as long as they have. It's above average for them to have combined for 352 wins (and counting). And if you disambiguate their careers, you find that each of them has enjoyed a number of above-average seasons. In 2002, Burnett led the National League with five shutouts (he's got three since). Dempster's been an All-Star twice, and went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 2008. Penny's also a two-time All-Star and finished third in the Cy Young balloting in 2007.
Each of these pitchers had the God-given ability to pitch like Hall of Famers, or nearly so, for stretches. But each of them has been seriously injured at least once, just like most guys who throw 90 miles an hour with a deliver that God wouldn't have thought to invent. Unless to play a really mean joke on all the young pitchers who blow out their shoulders before they have a chance to accomplish anything like what Burnett, Dempster, and Penny have.