Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein called into Boston sports radio station WEEI this afternoon to discuss the trade that sent pitcher Bronson Arroyo to the Reds for Wily Mo Pena. A summary of his comments (not direct quotes) follow:
Wily Mo Pena brings something for now and he brings a lot of potential for the future. Now, he has the ability to hit left-handed pitching and brings raw power. At his age, 24, he can get whole lot better.
In the future, Pena has the potential to be a legitimate middle-of-the-order power hitter. He strikes out a lot, and has not had a traditional development curve. The track record for players this young with this power is pretty good. If he hits his potential, he’s got a chance to be an impact guy but there is risk involved with this skill set.
He’s under our control this year, 2007, 2008 … he was so good at 16 years old, such a physical freak, that was signed to major league contract out of the Dominican Republic.
Because he was signed so young, he eventually ran out of options and had to play at the major league level before he was ready. He’s been in big leagues for four years, with 850 at bats. We understand he’s a little behind. He has incredible raw tools. He is 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, is an above average runner, has a lot of power and a fantastic throwing arm. He hasn’t realized his full potential.
Strikeouts. There is no way around them. He’s No. 1 in strikeout ratio, that’s something that will decline with age but will always be a part of his game. The strikeouts are going to come. The pitch that gives him trouble: sliders from right-handed pitchers, chases them away … hits left-handed pitching so much better. Very common for young hitters to chase away breaking balls. He’s got to learn to make pitchers come into the strike zone. He’s started to figure out how to make pitchers throw strikes in winter ball. He’s not going have a great walk rate, strike out rate, overnight, but had great winter ball.
Even if improvement doesn’t come right away, the way he hits left-handed pitching is an asset for us. His defense is like his offense. He can play center field, too. It’s up to Terry Francona to implement him into the lineup. We want him to get at-bats, to continue development.
I talked to him. We’re going to get him as much playing time as we can. He’s a hard worker who wants to get better. We think he’s coming into a nurturing environment.
Theo on Bronson Arroyo:
I’ve seen it repeated about a ‘gentlemen’s agreement,’ … I talked to Jed Hoyer about the contract. The topic came up, but we said we cannot guarantee you’ll not be traded. There was nothing hot. No imminent trade talks. But certainly things change over months. There was no gentleman’s agreement. No handshake. Obviously he wanted to stay in Boston. It’s tough to do to someone who’s been a loyal soldier, enjoys being in Boston. But have to do what’s best for the organization.
We like Lenny DiNardo, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jon Lester, who may be ready to help us at the end of the season. I still think we have enough pitching depth but don’t hold me to it if we’re scrambling for bodies in June.