Cards Sign Kennedy, Wells, Marrero & Bennett

From the offices of Dr. George Paletta Jr., the Cardinals' orthopedic consultant, at the Orthopedic Center of St. Louis, Cardinals Senior Vice President/General Manager Walt Jocketty announced the signing of four free-agents on Tuesday.

The Cardinals signed one of their former top prospects Adam Kennedy to a reported three-year, $10 million dollar contract on Tuesday.

Kennedy was the Cardinals' first-round draft pick in 1997 and made his major league debut with St. Louis in 1999 before being traded to the Angels along with Kent Bottenfield for center fielder Jim Edmonds on March 23, 2000.

Kennedy will replace Ron Belliard at second, whom the Cardinals had acquired from the Indians last July for infielder Hector Luna to shore up the Cards infield for the pennant stretch drive.

Kennedy's Agent Paul Cohen said that the 30-year-old second baseman turned down more money from two other clubs, believed to be the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Diego Padres that had an interest in Kennedy.

"Adam's going to the World Series champs, to one of the two or three best baseball cities in America, to a place where he's been and he knows well," Cohen said. "On a 1-10 happiness scale, he's like a 12 right now."

Kennedy is a .280 hitter over eight big-league seasons with the Cardinals and Angels.

Also agreeing to terms Tuesday was starting pitcher Kip Wells. Wells, coming to St. Louis after an off year, appears to be another project for pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Wells spent most of the 2006 season with a blood clot in his shoulder, finishing the year with a 6.50 ERA in just nine starts. For his career, Wells is 57-74 with a 4.46 ERA in 197 games (177 starts).

On the bright side, in 2002 and 2003, he posted ERAs well under 4.00 as a member of the Pirates. When healthy, Wells has the potential of being a front-line starter.

His stuff has never been questioned, but at times his command is a problem. In 2005, he led the N.L. with 99 walks, but that may be attributed to the lack of run support he got in Pittsburgh which may have forced Wells to try to be too fine on the mound, rather than attacking the batters.

Clearly, playing in St. Louis under Dave Duncan and with the offense and defense of the World Champion Cardinals behind him, Wells could rebound and may finally fulfill that potential to be a front-line starter.

Wells is expected to bring up the rear of Cardinals 2007 rotation.

The Cardinals signed back-up catcher Gary Bennett and utility player, former St. Louis Cardinal,Eli Marrero to contracts as well on Tuesday.

Bennett, 34, returns to St. Louis after playing for the Cardinals last year in his first season with St. Louis and will continue to be the primary backup for Yadier Molina.

Bennett batted .223 with four home runs and 22 RBI in 60 games with St. Louis last season.

Eli Marrero, 33, signed a minor league deal and will get the opportunity to compete for a bench spot in Spring Training.

Marrero, who was sent to the Braves in a trade with J.D. Drew that brought in Jason Marquis, Adam Wainwright and Ray King to St. Louis, has played for Atlanta, Kansas City, Baltimore, Colorado and the Mets since he last wore the Birds on Bat.

Marrero, batted .204 with six homers and 15 RBI in 55 games with the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies last season.

What's up next for the Cardinals? They'll need to shift their focus this winter to try to find at least one more, maybe two starting pitchers to join the rotation that as of today includes Chris Carpenter, Anthony Reyes and now Kip Wells.

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