Dodgers decline option on Penny
Second baseman Kent, 40, adds name to free agency
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers careers of starter Brad Penny and second baseman Jeff Kent might have come to an end Wednesday.
Penny, who won 16 games in 2006 and 2007 to become the staff ace and Opening Day starter this year, was bought out of his contract by the Dodgers on Wednesday for $2 million and is eligible to file for free agency.
Kent, now 40 and unlikely for any role other than designated hitter or pinch-hitter, filed for free agency.
The Dodgers could have kept the 30-year-old Penny by exercising an option for $9.25 million, a relatively affordable salary in today's climate. But they instead chose to cut him loose after a season in which he went 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA and spent three stints on the disabled list with lingering shoulder problems.
"He was a key member of this club in '07," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "And then this year, between him getting hurt and not being able to come back, he just didn't see enough work over the last three months of the season for us to do anything else than what we did today. We wish him the best and hope that he continues to be a good pitcher.
"Injuries are part of the game. It's something that can happen to anybody. But he's capable of being in the All-Star Game, which I think he did in '06 and '07. That speaks volumes for how good he is when he's right. I sense that if he had been able to match '07 in '08, it would've given the club a better chance."
The probable departure of Penny and the free-agent filing of Derek Lowe leave the Dodgers without their top two starters, but the salary savings (Lowe received $10 million this year) also seem to position the club nicely for a run at the premier pitcher on this year's free-agent market, CC Sabathia.
The Dodgers' current rotation is indeed thin. Chad Billingsley, coming off his first full Major League season as a starter, has the most experience, followed by Hiroki Kuroda, the Japanese import who just finished his rookie season in the Major Leagues. Clayton Kershaw made 21 starts as a 20-year-old rookie. James McDonald also could vie for a starting spot coming off an impressive postseason, even though he worked only six regular-season innings in the Major Leagues.
The wild card for the Dodgers' rotation is Jason Schmidt, who has one win and two shoulder operations in his first two seasons with the club. Schmidt has given indications he's feeling healthy for the first time in two years and could work his way into the rotation, although the Dodgers can't count on that considering his injury history.
Greg Maddux, acquired for the pennant stretch when Penny couldn't answer the bell, also has filed for free agency, and his agent indicated that Maddux, 42, will retire.
Penny was acquired by former Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta in a controversial deal July 30, 2004, from the Florida Marlins with Hee-Seop Choi and Bill Murphy for Paul Lo Duca, Guillermo Mota and Juan Encarnacion. He injured his arm in his second Dodgers start and got off to a slow beginning in 2005, but emerged as a two-time 16-game winner.
Kent just completed his fourth season with the Dodgers, hitting .280 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs, his lowest production in more than a decade. He missed most of the last month of the season with knee surgery and rushed back in three weeks, only to lose his starting second-base job to Blake DeWitt, Kent being relegated to a pinch-hitting role in the playoffs.
After the Dodgers were eliminated, Kent was non-committal about whether he would retire. He ranks 62nd on the all-time home run list with 377 and 47th on the all-time RBI list with 1,518.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.