Cardinals Major League Notebook: 12/12/09

Brad Penny has been signed with the next big question whether or not Matt Holliday will join him.



   The Cardinals, still waiting to see how Plan A -- left fielder Matt Holliday -- works out -- got a start on Plan B when they signed 31-year-old right-hander Brad Penny to a one-year contract that could pay him $9 million.


   Penny, who missed a good portion of the 2008 season with injury while with the Dodgers, was especially impressive for San Francisco, his second team, last season. He was 4-1 with a 2.59 earned run average in six starts for the Giants after being let go by Boston, where he was 7-8.


   "When we were looking at ways to improve our rotation and what was out there, he was someone we've had interest in for some time, and we were able to come to a mutually desirable contract," general manager John Mozeliak said. "When you look at the type of pitcher he is, his strengths fit in well. There's a strong desire to work with Dave (pitching coach Dave Duncan), and we saw a lot of upside there."


   The Cardinals, by signing Penny, didn't necessarily close the door on re-signing 42-year-old right-hander John Smoltz, who, like Penny, began the season in Boston before also finding success elsewhere. Smoltz made six good starts out of seven for the Cardinals after joining them for the final two months of the 2009 season.


   For now, the Cardinals have a rotation of veterans in right-handers Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and Penny, with the fifth spot up for grabs. One pitcher in the mix for that spot is 23-year-old Jaime Garcia, who finished strongly for Class AAA Memphis last season after recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.


   "We're comfortable if we had to go into spring with the four we have plus Jaime," Mozeliak said. "Obviously, if you look at how (little) Jaime has thrown over the last two years it's a big challenge for him even in the fifth spot. It does make sense for us to add depth there.


   "Seeing how we're putting together the rotation and how it would best work, I still think there is a chance (Smoltz) could fit into that."




   --RHP Brad Penny was signed to a one-year deal, which meant the Cardinals effectively ended their interest, which had been scant, in retaining free agent RHP Joel Pineiro. Pineiro, who declined arbitration from the club, is seeking a multi-year deal, and general manager John Mozeliak said any deal longer than one year with Pineiro would be "unappealing."


   --Manager Tony La Russa said he expected his new hitting coach, former Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, to meet with the media shortly. This conversation surely will involve questions about any history McGwire had with performance enhancements. "It's going to happen," La Russa said of the "imminent" press conference. "I think what'll happen is hopefully whatever questions there are will happen before we go to spring training."


   --While the Cardinals hung in the Matt Holliday sweepstakes, they ran the risk of losing out on free agent INF-OF Mark DeRosa, who finished the 2009 season with them.


   "Mark enjoyed his time in St. Louis last season. He's definitely interested (in a possible return). But there's also a lot of interest in him," agent Keith Grunewald said.


   General manager John Mozeliak said, "Right now, if we approach this as apples to oranges, it's hard to make a decision. But if we can get it in terms of what the value propositions are out there relative to the Holliday situation, it would be a lot simpler to make the moves if we decide to go there."


   But the Cardinals insist they still are in the Holliday market. Manager Tony La Russa said, "We rarely get mentioned as one of the teams with a chance to sign him. Well, we refuse to believe that. I think we've got a legitimate shot."


   --Mozeliak squelched talk of acquiring an impact hitter through trade.  The Washington Nationals are reluctant to talk about LF Adam Dunn, and the Cardinals are not believed in the mix to acquire Florida Marlins 2B baseman Dan Uggla.


   --La Russa indicated interest in Houston free agent INF Miguel Tejada, who was an Oakland minor leaguer when La Russa managed there in the 1990. "Yeah, we've talked about Miguel," La Russa said. But others in the organization didn't seem as interested in the Dominican veteran, who had played shortstop for Houston but who would move to third in St. Louis.


   --To add depth to their outfield, especially from the left side, the Cardinals might have interest in OF Ryan Church, designated for assignment by Atlanta.


   BY THE NUMBERS: 16 -- Number of wins for new RHP Brad Penny in both 2006 and 2007 for Los Angeles. 


   QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we don't spend on (Matt) Holliday, we will spend on several players." -- Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III, discussing the possibilities if the free agent outfielder isn't re-signed.




   The Cardinals didn't have many needs as the season ended although they probably could use one more veteran starting pitcher to go with RHPs Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse. RHPs Joel Pineiro and Todd Wellemeyer, who filled out the rotation, both likely will be gone as free agents.


   BIGGEST NEEDS: When the Cardinals were dismissed early from the playoffs, they set the wheels in motion to try to re-sign free agent LF Matt Holliday and also 3B Mark DeRosa. Holliday, however, seemed likely to go into the open market.


   ARRIVAL: RHP Brad Penny (free agent from Giants).


   DEPARTURE: RHP Brad Thompson (released, signed minor league deal with Royals).


   FREE AGENTS: RHP Joel Pineiro, RHP Todd Wellemeyer, RHP John Smoltz, INF Khalil Greene, INF Mark DeRosa, 3B Troy Glaus, OF Rick Ankiel, LF Matt Holliday.


   The Cardinals have large interest in keeping Holliday and DeRosa and some interest in Smoltz. The others probably are gone.


   ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: OF Ryan Ludwick, 2B Skip Schumaker.


   Schumaker will make more as a second baseman than an outfielder. Ludwick likely will get close to $7 million and might have to be traded for payroll relief if Holliday signs a multiyear deal.


   IN LIMBO: OF Ryan Ludwick, a candidate to be traded last year, could be dealt this time. RHP Josh Kinney, a playoff hero in 2006, probably won't return.




   3B Mark DeRosa (left wrist surgery in October 2009) should be ready for spring training.


   1B Albert Pujols (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2009) should be back at full strength for spring training.

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