Marlins, Orioles Swap Option-less Players

The Orioles traded righthander Hayden Penn to the Marlins for shortstop Robert Andino, in a deal involving two players with no options remaining.

The Young
It only seems like Penn has been around forever, but he’s just 24 and hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2006. He’s a testament to what the Orioles used to be—an organization that didn’t have enough talent and didn’t really know what to do with talent when it was on hand. A fifth-round pick in 2002, he was signed away from San Diego State and immediately hopped on the fast track. He finished his first full season in Double-A Bowie, and jumped to Baltimore at the end of 2005. He clearly wasn’t ready, but the Orioles had so little pitching at the time they didn’t have many other options. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder checked in as the organization’s No. 3 prospect at the time, behind Nick Markakis and Adam Loewen, having shown a low-90s fastball that reached 96 on occasion, as well as a solid changeup and fringy curveball. Health problems and a lack of development of the curve have dogged him since he was rushed into the breach. He had bone spurs removed from his elbow in 2007, and missed part of 2006 with an appendectomy. He battled shoulder problems most of 2008, when he went 6-7, 4.79 for Triple-A Norfolk in 21 starts, though he didn’t have surgery. With a chance to win a big league spot this spring, Penn went 0-3, 10.06 in 17 innings, giving up four home runs. 

Andino’s story is similar—same draft year of 2002 (second round instead of fifth), same big league debut season (2005), similar lack of big league success. The 6-foot shortstop has hit .201/.250/.299 in 144 major league at-bats for the Marlins, but he didn’t really need to hit to stick as a reserve in Florida. He wasn’t going to beat out Hanley Ramirez as the starter, and his glove should have made him a good option as a defensive replacement and utilityman. Scouts consider his range and arm above-average, and he has the infield actions to be both steady and able to make the spectacular play. His bat has been the problem; his swing path is sound when he stays with a line-drive approach, but he lacks pitch recognition, loses focus and lacks the strength to make consistent hard contact, having struck out 100 times in each of his last three full minor league seasons.

Why not? The Orioles don’t have a long-term answer at shortstop and lack homegrown options; if Andino picks up some professionalism from Cesar Izturis, he could be a solid placeholder if everything comes together. Penn still has somewhat live stuff, and clearly needs a new voice or two in his ear. The Marlins had tired of Andino’s act and can see if Penn can benefit from being around their stable of young, live arms.

Trade Central 2009