Boston's tale of nine SP

Ben Nicholson-Smith posts a mini-Link-O-Rama about the Red Sox and -- with Brad Penny pitching well last night and John Smoltz supposedly starting next week -- their rotational surplus.
What do you do with six starters? Well, you can make one of them a reliever. But Penny doesn't want to be a reliever, and I'm guessing that Smoltz doesn't, either (even though he's performed brilliantly as a reliever before).

Also, the Red Sox don't really need another reliever. Have you seen their bullpen lately? Aside from swingman Justin Masterson, Takashi Saito's 2.53 ERA is the highest among Boston bullpenners with at least 20 innings. Granted, Manny Delcarmen (2.08) and Ramon Ramirez (1.86) haven't pitched as well as their ERA's suggest. Nobody's moving them, though.

Bottom line: Red Sox relievers have the lowest (2.88) ERA in the majors, and so it's not likely that they'll shift one of their valuable starting pitchers to another role.

Penny's got a 5.32 ERA, so it might seem like an easy choice: trade Penny for whatever you can get.

Most of the damage to Penny's ERA was done in April, though, when he was absolutely horrible in four starts, with an 8.66 ERA and more walks (11) than strikeouts (6?). In Penny's eight starts since April, he's got a 4.10 ERA with nine walks and 38 strikeouts in 48 innings. Those aren't great numbers, but they're certainly good enough for any other team in the majors. Is Smoltz likely to do better?

At $5 million for the season, Penny's a bit cheaper than Smoltz, whose base salary is $5.5 million, but will earn (roughly) another $3 million if he's on the 25-man roster from next week through the end of the season. And he picks up another $500,000 if he's traded. Which I mention only because ... Why not trade Smoltz instead of Penny? The Red Sox (and Smoltz) have been teasing us all spring with the prospect of seeing the future Hall of Famer pitching for the Sox, and it's an attractive prospect indeed ... But does it make sense, now?

Maybe. Maybe not. But the Red Sox probably can't get much for Smoltz before he actually shows something in the majors, which means that for the moment at least, Penny's the one with some real trade value. Oh, and dare I again mention Clay Buchholz, who's one of only three Triple-A starters with an ERA below 2 ... and is now the only one of the three still wasting away down there?

The Red Sox have seven starting pitchers without even counting Masterson and Michael Bowden, both of whom would be starting for a lot of clubs. Usually that's a good problem to have, and probably will be in this case, too. But I suspect that some feelings will be hurt, some feathers ruffled in the process of sorting everything out.