The past five years
Call to the Pennington
Pennington enters his second year with the Diamondbacks, having been traded for Chris Young during the 2012 post-season. It's a deal which has worked out pretty well for Arizona, Pennington having certainly been cheaper, and by most metrics, better overall than Young. Cliff's value is unquestionably with the glove. He doesn't hit much, has an average walk rate and leaves the park at a rate which surpasses only Willie Bloomquist. However, his defense has been more than enough to make up for these shortcomings, and at a cost of $1.75 million last season, was perfectly good value for money.
His cost goes up to $3.25 milliion for 2014, in his second year of arbitration, which will likely eat into his surplus worth - he turns 30 in June, and probably isn't going to get any better at this point. But, oddly, that's actually what we want, because it's not as if Pennington's development is going to be hurt by being the backup infielder and getting a couple of outings a week. Last time out, he started a total of 69 games, about two-thirds at shortstop, and one imagines that's where he'll see most duty again. If he's backing up Chris Owings, he might get a bit more time, since he platoons better there, than with Didi Gregorius - neither Cliff nor Didi seem able to hit left-handers.
It is a new role - during the three years before coming to Arizona, he averaged 127 starts per season at short in Oakland But Pennington certainly doesn't seem to be under any illusions regarding his role, and appears content to be a mentor to the young shortstops. He said, "Everybody on this team is trying to pull the ropes the same way. We're all trying to help each other out. Obviously, we've got the two really good, talented, young shortstops. Hopefully I can help them both learn some things and we can get better together and all help each other and become better players, all three of us."
Indeed, as well as his fellow shortstops, he may be key to the success of another Diamondback, having apparently helped Wade Miley turn his season around, with a good talking-to at a key moment. Wade said, “It’s awesome to have a teammate who will get on your (butt) a little bit when you’re struggling. He saw me just kind of giving in.” If It was Pennington who was responsible for how well Miley pitched thereafter - a 2.87 ERA - Cliff's value to the team in the upcoming campaign might not be best measured in slickly-turned double-plays, or even the extra-inning heroics we saw from him so frequently last year.