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Brad Penny Gives Cardinals More Upside in Rotation

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According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Cardinals and right-hander Brad Penny have come to an agreement on a one-year deal worth $7.5M with another $1.5M in incentives. The deal is pending a physical scheduled for Tuesday.

Much of the talk in St. Louis has been based around Matt Holliday and finding a replacement for him if he leaves, but quietly the Cardinals needed to fill another huge hole in the rotation with the departure of Joel Pineiro. Pineiro quietly made himself into a groundball machine last season, and his combination of pristine control and command made him one of the most effective starters in the National League. The big year priced Pineiro out of St. Louis' range, so it appears that they've turned to Penny to replace him in the rotation, to be joined with Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and presumably either Mitchell Boggs or Blake Hawksworth.

Penny, 32 in May, managed to bounce back in 2009 with the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants after pitching just 94 (poor) innings the year before with the Los Angeles Dodgers. While his 4.88 ERA doesn't exactly impress, he did post solid 4.46 FIP and 4.56 xFIP marks, and his big-time mid-90's velocity returned as the season went on. Penny has some big upside, he has top of the rotation stuff and went five straight seasons with sub-4.00 FIPs from 2003 to 2007, and he's been worth more than 2.5 wins above replacement in six of the past seven seasons. Considering the big fastball, his apparent return to health, and a pretty solid track record outside of 2008, it seems that the Cardinals have added a pretty good arm to their rotation.

If Dave Duncan can help Penny in the same way that he helped the likes of Carpenter, Pineiro, Lohse, Matt Morris, Jeff Weaver, and Jeff Suppan, among others, then this could end up being a really great signing for the Cardinals. The guaranteed money is pretty significant at $7.5M, but it's only a one-year deal so a lot of the risk is mitigated, and there's reason to believe that Penny should be able to be a 2-3 WAR pitcher next season, making him well worth the investment.

The Cardinals definitely have some risk in their rotation with Carpenter and Penny, not to mention Lohse's inconsistency and forearm issues from last season, but they could very well have one of the best, if not the best, rotation in the National League next season if everyone is healthy. The Cardinals have some holes to fill still, especially in the lineup, but for $7.5M they did just land a potential #2 starter.