By Joe Christensen
The Twins are among the teams interested in Red Sox pitcher Brad Penny and would consider claiming him off release waivers instead of waiting for him to become a free agent, major league officials told the Star Tribune today.
Penny told the Boston Herald on Wednesday night that the Red Sox have granted him his release, but as of this morning, Penny had yet to be placed on release waivers. The Red Sox are expected to designate Penny for assignment tonight, to make room on their roster for reliever Billy Wagner.
There is speculation Penny will clear release waivers and land with a National League club — with the Rockies and Marlins both reportedly interested – but the Twins will consider taking on his contract, knowing it will cost them between $1.11 million and about $1.44 million for the rest of the season, depending on how many innings he pitches.
The Red Sox tried passing Penny through trade waivers but reportedly pulled him back after he was claimed. To release him, they must pass him through release waivers, with teams
in the American League getting first dibs in reverse order of their records. (This is amended below.)
Though Penny is 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA, it will be tough for the Twins to pass on him. They have serious holes in their rotation and Monday is the deadline to add players who can be eligible for postseason rosters.
Note: There are also indications the Twins are considering a move for lefthanded reliever Ron Mahay, who was designated for assignment by the Royals. Mahay went 1-1 with a 4.79 ERA in 41 appearances for Kansas City.
Update: Class AAA Rochester shortstop Trevor Plouffe was selected to play for Team USA in the World Cup next month, joining former Twin Terry Tiffee.
Update: The Red Sox announced that they have released Penny, making room for Wagner, but I’m told Penny won’t be a free agent until he clears release waivers. This is a key point, since there was speculation this morning that the Red Sox were trying to steer him toward an NL team.
Update: Since Brad Penny was placed on release waivers today, we won’t know his new destination until Monday, as the waiver period lasts two full business days.
Yes, Penny can refuse to join the team that claims him and become a free agent, but he would forfeit the remaining $2.6 million or so (with incentives) he can earn under his current deal. So I think it’s safe to assume Penny is headed where he’s claimed, and if he goes unclaimed, he’ll have his pick.
I received an education today on release waivers and will include more details in my story for print editions. Let’s just say it’s interesting with the Twins and White Sox currently tied in the standings. One key point is that release waivers are different from trade waivers.
If multiple teams place a claim on Penny, he will go to team from either league with the worst record. With trade waivers, the claim is first awarded to the team in that player’s own league with the worst record. And if two claiming teams are tied in the standings, the player goes to the team with the worst record in the previous year. (Insert coin flip joke here.)
Update: ESPN is reporting that the Twins might have been the team that placed a claim for Cubs starter Rich Harden. We haven’t been able to confirm this, but since Harden will be a Type A free agent, the Cubs are probably looking for decent talent in return. My take: There’s a far stronger chance the Twins end up with Penny than Harden.