Hayden Penn had to go.
Maybe he's a legit big-league starter someday, but it wasn't going to happen in Baltimore. The stars weren't lined up for that. And for the Orioles to move forward, Penn had to leave.
Here's what I'm curious about: Could today's Penn trade mark the final piece of a purge?
I don't mean the Orioles have entirely cleansed their farm of mediocrity or anything like that. But have they taken a step away from that long stretch of ill-fated busts? Are they turning the page and stepping into an era in which pitching prospects actually pan out?
The Orioles have spent three decades trying to grow pitchers like Jim Palmer and Dave McNally. I won't bore you with the stats but the list of can't-miss young pitchers is long: Jimmy Haynes, Beau Hale, Adam Loewen, Garrett Olson, Brad Pennington, and some guy named Ben McDonald (ever heard of him?). Oh, let's just include every pitcher drafted by Syd Thrift. Maybe Daniel Cabrera's name goes on this list, too. Not sure. But I think beginning today, Hayden Penn's definitely does.
The point isn’t to dig up all the bones in the prospect graveyard. But maybe Penn is the last of something. He was the fifth-round pick in 2002, the year the Orioles look Loewen with the fourth overall pick. It was Thrift's final draft class. Tony DeMacio was the scouting director then. When you look at some of the names in the system right now, Penn predates many of those who are showing so much promise. Guys like Kam Mickolio, David Hernandez, Troy Patton, Brandon Erbe, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz.
Time will tell whether members of this new class add their names to the existing list of busts – or whether they're able to create their own list.
Photo: Doug Kapustin / The Baltimore Sun