All four pitchers from the World Series Champions St. Louis Cardinals are still available as free agents, but the Cardinals are no closer today than when the season ended in signing any of them.
Baseball's Winter Meetings are over and as the free-agent pool continues to dry up, the Cardinals may need to look to the Los Angeles Dodgers and try to put together a trade offer for starting pitcher, Brad Penny.
So far this winter St. Louis has added only right-hander Kip Wells to the rotation. Wells pitched only 44.1 innings in 2006, mostly because of a blocked artery in his arm that required surgery. The Cardinals signed him to a one-year, $4 million contract and expect him to fill in near the back of the rotation.
If the season started today the Cardinals rotation would look like this, former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, as the staff ace. Basically rookie Anthony Reyes, Kip Wells, and then it's a toss up between members from the 2006 bullpen to include, Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper, Brad Thompson and perhaps rookie left-hander Chris Narveson, any of them who may end up auditioning for a starting job in Spring Training.
The Cardinals Vice-President and General Manager, Walt Jocketty made a strong run at Baseball's 2006 Winter Meetings in Orlando Florida this past week for free-agent right-hander Jason Schmidt. The three-time All-Star eventually signed a three-year contract through 2009 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, for a reported $47 million, leaving the Cardinals coming away from the meetings still looking for starting pitching.
Brad Penny, 28, a member of the National League 2006 All Star team, was 10-2 with a 2.91 earned run average in 18 starts over the first half of last season, but had a poor second half with a 6-7, record, 6.25 ERA in 15 starts.
The Dodgers, now that they have signed Schmidt think Penny could bring help in the outfield and/or bullpen, because he has a below-market contract (especially in this environment).
The Dodgers sign Penny to a three-year extension in June of 2005, the contract included, $7.5 million for 07, $8.5 million in 08 and a club option for $8.75 million in 09 with a $2 million dollar buyout. At $16 million for two seasons, Penny should attract some interest from several clubs and one team that should be talking to LA is the Cardinals.
The Dodgers are looking for a power hitting right-fielder and help in the bullpen. They may be interested in the Cardinals' 25 year old Chris Duncan, as part of a deal. Duncan hit .293 with 22 home runs in only 280 major league at bats in 2006 and there are some major league scouts who think Duncan has the potential to hit 40 home runs a season.
A couple of other names the Cardinals could use to try to entice the Dodgers into trading Penny, include outfielder Juan Encarnacion (he was actually part of a trade for Brad Penny in 2004, when the Marlins sent Penny to LA as part of a deal that sent Encarnacion to Florida), and reliever Braden Looper could be part of a deal with LA, to help stabilize the Dodgers bullpen. Then of course there is always cash that you can throw into a deal ,which as New York Yankee Hall of Famer and Legend, Yogi Berra says "Cash its almost as good as money."
The bottom line is, we shouldn't ignore Penny's 16 wins and a 4.33 ERA from last season. Penny when healthy can be a dominant top-of-the-rotation starter and could be part of a one-two punch in St. Louis, behind Chris Carpenter.
The Cardinals have some potential trading chips and some payroll flexibility and the Dodgers are open to discuss trading Penny. In my opinion St. Louis needs to explore this potential option.
That's it, that is my thoughts, and as the headline suggests, worth about a penny.
PS - Why is it a penny for your thoughts, but everyone always puts their two cents worth in? Someone is making a penny on this deal.