The Penny Deal

So the first real salvo of the Cardinals' offseason has been fired, as they signed Brad Penny to a one-year, $7.5 million deal which could be worth up to $9 million if he pitches 204 innings. (Incidentally, I would love to know how they came up with 204 innings as the benchmark. I wonder if it's based on an historic view of Penny's career; i.e. he never throws more than 202.1 innings, or if there's some formula used. Very curious.) In addition, the Cardinals agree not to offer Penny arbitration following the 2010 season if and only if he reaches Type A arbitration status. 

I have to say, I really, really like this deal, with one caveat. It breaks my heart a little to note that this deal most likely signals an end to John Smoltz's time in a Cardinal uni, though I suppose that isn't a sure thing. If I were given the choice between Penny in the rotation for a year or Smoltzy for the same year, I would have to choose Smoltz. Of course, the fact Penny is almost ten years younger than Smoltz probably should be taken into consideration. 

Nonetheless, this is an outstanding deal for the Cardinals, who managed to add another power arm to a rotation that was already one of the best in baseball last year. I'm not entirely sure if Penny can make up for the loss of Joel Pineiro (there's a sentence I never thought I would type), but he could very well come close. 

Strangely enough, the one thing I've heard the most complaining about is the dollar figure. Odd, since most fans are constantly clamouring for DeWitt to open DeWallet, but there you go. I heard nothing but positives when it was one year for five million, but tack on another two and a half and it becomes further proof John Mozeliak is a drooling incompetent. I don't get it. 

 I suppose it has something to do with the big extension everyone thinks Matt Holliday is going to sign with the Cards, but I have a hard time believing the few extra million in 2010 are going to be the sticking point on Holliday. If Holliday doesn't sign here, it won't be because the Cardinals fell a couple mil short in 2010; it will be because they fell two years and a couple dozen million short over the length of the contract. If anyone can't see the difference between the money being paid to Penny for one year and the GNP of Paraguay being paid to Matt Holliday over the better part of a decade, then I guess Cardinal fans just aren't quite as smart as I thought they were. 

I'll be interested to see how Penny and Dave Duncan work together. Penny seems to be almost an ideal candidate for the Duncan gameplan; he's a pitcher whose stuff has always exceeded his results (for a guy who throws as hard as Penny, he should strike out way more hitters), already has some groundball tendencies, and has a habit of forgetting about his offspeed pitches in favour of just muscling up with the heater. (Of course, him muscling up with his heater also led to the most impressive performance of his career in the All Star game a couple years ago, but that was over two innings. Maybe he'd make a good closer...) If Duncan can get Penny on the same page he did Todd Stottlemyre, the Cards could be looking at one hell of a bargain. 

On the whole, this is a really, really good move, I think. The Cardinal rotation should be solid again in 2010 with Penny slotting in right behind or ahead of Kyle Lohse, and it has the potential to be spectacular. If Penny can pitch even close to the form he showed last year in San Francisco or in 2007 with the Dodgers, the Cards could boast one of the top two or three rotations in baseball. Best of all, if Penny does flame out, it's just a one-year deal. 

Oh, and as for that promise not to offer arbitration if Penny is a Type A? See, ordinarily that would be the sort of contract detail which would piss me off, but not this time. Just looking at where Penny falls on the arby scale now (he is neither an A or B this year), in order to reach Type A in 2010 he would most likely have to be as good or better than either Carpenter or Wainwright were in 2009. 

And if that happens, well, I'm sure we'll all be okay with it. 
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