Last week, I profiled the bench that the Red Sox had and concluded that the Red Sox have the best bench entering the season. However, while profiling the bench, I wrote about Wily Mo and his chances in Boston:
A nice debut season for Boston (.301/.349/.489 in 276 AB) showed off his true potential, but he will enter 2007 again a backup player, having been deserving of full-time status since 2004. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for 2008 either, as Manny Ramirez, Coco Crisp (or Ichiro Suzuki or Jacoby Ellsbury) and J.D. Drew will be ensconced in the outfield, and Ortiz at DH.
This is not news. We have known for a while that Wily Mo is stuck behind a lot of great outfielders, just like he was stuck in Cincinnati (looks like they would love his CF abilities right about now, just as we would have loved Arroyo last year). There is no light at the end of the tunnel for Pena in Boston. Manny Ramirez has two years left in Boston, and (get ready to laugh) wants to spend the rest of his career in Boston.
Before going any further, I wanted to see what the readers of Fire Brand felt. The results:
How should the Red Sox handle Wily Mo Pena?
There’s a glut now and a glut in the future. Trade him now!
4% of all votes
Trade him at the trading deadline for a pressing need.
20% of all votes
As long as we control him with our injury freaks patrolling the OF, he needs to stick around on the bench, even if that’s into 2008 or 2009.
57% of all votes
Wily Mo needs to start NOW and be a Red Sox for a long time!
19% of all votes
The results were pretty interesting to me. I was expecting it to be a dead heat between option two and three, with strong representation for option four. Instead, it was a runaway for option three, strong representation for options two and four, and an expected small offering for option one.
I voted for option two: trade him at the trading deadline for a pressing need.
Let’s break down each response in order of the percentage of votes it received:
4% of all votes
The benefit to trading Wily Mo Pena immediately is that we could get a pretty good chip in return. The San Diego Padres are searching for an outfielder and are talking to the Philadelphia Phillies in general terms about a Scott Linebrink/Aaron Rowand swap, even though it would deplete the Phillies’ outfield. They’re also shopping Jon Lieber. It’s very possible a three-team trade could work out to send Rowand to the Padres, Lieber and Linebrink to the Red Sox, and Pena to the Phillies, where Pena would start immediately. Lieber would allow Papelbon to return to the closing ranks (yes, I know he’s a starter now. Let’s just pretend that Papelbon could and would go back to closing with this deal) and Linebrink gives us another arm in the bullpen. Even if there’s no plans to move Papelbon to the bullpen, we could flip Lieber elsewhere, such as the St. Louis Cardinals or Minnesota Twins.
The only problem here is that there are too many teams, possibilities, players and moving parts to make anything happen quickly, which it theoretically would have to to prepare for Opening Day. Not to mention the fact that if Papelbon enters the season as a starter, he needs to stay a starter no matter what – no jerking him around. In addition, Wily Mo Pena is only 25-years of age. He is clearly ready to start, but I’m pretty okay with keeping him on the bench, especially until we know what exactly we have in the outfield trio of Manny, Coco, and Drew.
19% of all votes
It’s really hard to argue with this.
Pena has a career .261/.315/.480 line, but really started learning how to make contact his first season in Boston. In 276 AB, he hit .301/.349/.489, solid numbers all-around, although I would love to see that OBP creep 20 points higher. There is no doubt that Wily Mo can hit, but there have been so many questions about his defense, it’s been impossible to foresee any future in a Red Sox uniform for Pena given the Red Sox’s high reluctance to try him out at first-base. This may be because Pena simply wouldn’t move well at first base and not be good at picking balls out of the ground. Look, I’m a huge proponent of at least trying him out at first base in Spring Training, but I don’t need any more proof to see that Pena would probably not work out as a first baseman.
If the Red Sox hadn’t spent the cash to bring in J.D. Drew, then this would be moot – Pena would be playing right field. However, Drew is a force in the field and should bring some much needed speed, arm strength, and overall defense (breaking in the right direction, getting the right reads) to the game, which the Red Sox could unquestionably use.
If the Red Sox hadn’t made the smart decision to sign David Ortiz, this would be moot – Pena would have started at DH all last year (or played left, with Manny DHing) and this discussion wouldn’t be had, but I think we are all happy with our current DH.
If we had traded Manny Ramirez, Pena could step into left-field and I think could end up being a worthy successor to the pedigrees of left-fielders in Red Sox history – Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Manny Ramirez, Wily Mo Pena.
And yet, we have done these three things, and so Wily Mo Pena finds himself on the bench.
20% of all votes
This is the option I voted for.
It makes complete sense to keep Pena around for another year to protect against injury, then try to deal Manny again and slide Pena into left-field. It also makes somewhat some sense to keep Pena around as a bench player for yet another year (his age 26 year) and then slot him into left-field as a full time starter at age 27. Quite frankly, for someone of Pena’s talents, that’s far too late to finally notch a full-time starting job, don’t you think? Pena has the prodigal power to eventually be talked about as someone who reaches 500 HR … and yet he wouldn’t get a full-time job until 27?
If we trade Pena (preferably to the National League) we could fill some severe pressing need that we don’t even know we need. Perhaps the bullpen is an absolute joke of a bullpen. Call Jim Bowden up and rekindle the Chad Cordero talks. Make a passing glance to K-Rod of the Angels and push the fact that the Angels need to get some power to go along with Vlad (yes, I know this is a complete waste of a chance and we’d give up much more than Wily Mo, but humor me). Call up the Mariners, sliding out of contention, about J.J. Putz. Check out Brad Lidge of the Astros.
It gets Wily Mo Pena his starting job, it gets the Red Sox a piece we really, truly need to go after a World Series this year. Who fills the backup OF spot? Who cares? Call up David Murphy.
57% of all votes
This option makes sense. But is it right for the Red Sox and for Wily Mo? Can the Red Sox afford to have the “luxury” of Pena on the bench for TWO YEARS before his THEORETICAL full-time job opens up? It may not open up. What if we bring in Ichiro? What if we pick up Manny’s options or he signs an extension at a lower salary? What if J.D. Drew proves Theo right and Coco Crisp is the Crisp of old or Jacoby Ellsbury wins the Rookie of the Year award? Can we keep Wily Mo on the bench for two years, wasting his talents, while other holes on the Red Sox crop up? It’s as much of benefiting the Red Sox as it is doing a favor to Wily Mo. He really should be starting. I have no problem giving him another year off the bench and seeing if his 2006 was a fluke. Maybe a couple more singles dropped in, his BABIP was unseasonably high (His .441 BABIP is very… VERY high, and in the three years previous it was .339, .302 and .290) … maybe he drops down to 2004 and 2005 numbers. If so, maybe he really is just a bench player who is a starter on an average team but on a World Series team is a role player.
Here’s Zach Hayes’ thoughts on Wily Mo, as he voted for this option:
To rightfully handle the Wily Mo Pena situation as it stands, the Red Sox need to have him stick around as long as possible on the roster. Even with the outfield currently packed with Coco Crisp, Manny Ramirez and newly acquired J.D. Drew, we could lose any of the three at any point in the season. Coco was hindered last year with an injury, Drew