Cubs, Red Sox and Indians add injury risks

The Red Sox recently signed Brad Penny to a one-year deal, while the Yankees have finally washed their hands of Carl Pavano‘s hideous contract (the Indians signed him to a one-year deal). Meanwhile, the Cubs strapped themselves with what seems to be a questionable three-year deal with the oft-injured Milton Bradley . What makes this deal look worse is that the Rays were able to snag Pat Burrell for two years and $16 million.

Brad Penny

In the case of Penny, the deal makes sense for both sides. Penny gets to play for a contender, while the Red Sox receive insurance in case Tim Wakefield‘s shoulder acts up again, or if Clay Buchholz doesn’t pan out the way they hope he will. There are also lingering questions about the durability of Josh Beckett following last season’s struggles with numerous injuries.

The only downside here is that Penny dealt with an ailing shoulder through a great portion of the ’08 season, and his numbers are going to slide regardless with a move to Fenway. His road numbers historically have been worse than his home splits.

Penny is a risk due to his lengthy history of biceps injuries, as well as shoulder, forearm and back strains. In 2008, he was diagnosed with tendinitis, bursitis, inflammation and scar tissue formation (though the latter two are not actually diagnoses). I am not sold on his shoulder problems being past him. When healthy, he usually strikes out six to seven batters per game, but the past two seasons this has dropped to four or five. His walk rates and home run rates also have increased.

Steer clear. I would add him only in the late rounds of your mixed league drafts. If he ends up on your waiver wire and he lands a spot in the rotation during spring training, add him and hope for the best. Remember, he will not be pitching in a friendly home stadium any longer. He probably will end up in the 4.25-4.50 ERA range, and he will be detrimental in the WHIP department—likely in the 1.35-1.45 area.

Carl Pavano

The Indians plan to slot Pavano in the rotation behind Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona and Anthony Reyes, though Reyes and Pavano could swap places. He could make his season debut at the new Yankee Stadium against his former team. Though his stats in 2008 were certainly not eye-popping (4-2, 5.77 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 34.1 innings), he had impressed enough teams with his physical attributes to draw some attention in the offseason. At least three other teams were interested in adding him, including Boston.

He has never been a big strikeout guy, and his record has been extremely volatile, even going back to his early days in Montreal. His ceiling is probably as a decent, if not erratic, fourth or fifth starter. A good projection for Pavano is an ERA somewhere in the mid-to-high 4s with five or six strikeouts per nine innings. Due to his injury history, you can’t expect much more than about 15 starts, with anything additional being a bonus.

I am avoiding him in in drafts of all but the deepest mixed leagues. AL-only owners might target him late in their drafts with the expectations of him being a boom or complete bust, and should have several solid options before even considering him.

Milton Bradley

Bradley always has been a player who, if healthy, can take over games and carry a team. This was evident last season when he was able to produce sweet numbers in the Rangers lineup. He also plays plus defense. Of course, the downside is his inability to stay healthy for extended periods. He has played more than 100 games only three times in his career (more than 120 only twice). Expect more of the same from Bradley—.300/.390/.540, 15-20 homers and 65-70 RBI— assuming he stays healthy.

As always, Bradley should be drafted in the middle rounds of mixed leagues, preferably as a third or fourth outfielder. In weekly head-to-head leagues, he is capable of carrying teams to wins single-handedly when he’s on a hot streak.

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