Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Marlins Trade for Hayden Penn: April Fools?

No, really, the Marlins actually traded a young shortstop for Hayden Penn, as hard as that is to believe. Hayden Penn had pitched to an ERA over 10 over this spring, and yet the Marlins offered 24-year old shortstop Robert Andino in a trade for the 24-year old right handed pitcher. This trade simply boggles the mind and, quite honestly, sounded like nothing more than a bizarre April Fools joke at first sight. The Orioles were put in a position where they would be forced to release Penn given the fact that he is out of options and has pitched miserably this spring and would only be dead weight on the major league roster.

Don't get me wrong: there was a time in which Hayden Penn was the best pitching prospect in the Orioles organization, making his debut as a 20 year old in 2005 for a brief period. Hayden Penn came along quickly in the organization, blowing away hitters with a particularly nasty curveball. However, he began encountering a rash of bizarre injuries, starting with a bout of appendicitis in 2006 on the eve of his first major league start that season. Since that setback he has never been the same. Yes, his arm has been physically fine this spring, but something has been missing from Penn's game and he's just never fully recovered. Last year he had difficulty in regularly handling Triple-A lineups in the minor leagues, so it really was nothing more than wishful thinking that he would suddenly turn up his game when faced with major league competition.

The Marlins giving up Andrino for Penn is surprising yes, but not altogether unreasonable. Andrino in his own right has not lived up to lofty expectations, as he was once the shortstop of the future for that organization before the arrival of Hanley Ramirez. It's also symptomatic of just how desired young starting pitching is in this day and age. Consistent winners in today's game are built on having young pitching in their ranks, and thus if the Marlins feel that they can potentially uncover a young pitcher for a low price tag they'll take it. The Marlins' pitching coach, Mark Wiley, worked with Hayden Penn in the developmental league, so they're most likely looking for that connection to possibly re-ignite the magic.

Regardless of the rationale, the Orioles have to be thrilled with this. Robert Andrino is still young and is an excellent fielder at a position of need. This way the Orioles can ensure that Izturis is not overworked at short, and they can possibly uncover a good talent who has not gotten the opportunity to play significantly in recent years. The Orioles were expecting to have to release Penn, getting nothing in return. This way they get a cheap young shortstop with potential. And amazingly enough, this is not an April Fools joke.

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