Cardinals are Penny Wise

I am a sucker for headline puns. Brad Penny is a good fit for the St. Louis Cardinals. The St. Louis Cardinals are a good fit for Brad Penny.

Attention is placed primarily on what the Cardinals are going to do about Matt Holliday, but they also have Joel Pineiro‘s production to replace. Pineiro went from being your run-of-the-mill 5th starter to a fearsome worm-burning machine this past season, pricing himself out of the Cardinals’ range. The Cardinals already have multi-year commitments to Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in place and were not looking to give out another long commitment to another pitcher.

Enter Brad Penny. Coming off a shoulder injury in 2008, Penny threw 173 innings last season. As expected, his fastball didn’t quite have it’s normal giddy-up in the early going, but his velocity steadily increased as the season went on.

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Penny took his lumps while in Boston, allowing a 5.61 ERA over 24 starts, but his batting average of balls in play was .336, 30 points higher than his career average. In contrast to his bloated ERA, his FIP was 4.49 – not sterling, but respectable. Boston dumped him and Penny exchanged bad luck for good with the league change; he threw 42 innings of a 2.59 ERA for the Giants. His FIP with San Francisco was 4.35, more in line with what you’d expect. All told Penny was 25 runs better than a replacement pitcher. Penny’s seen better days, but in the right circumstances, the potential may be there for a rebound.

Enter the St. Louis Cardinals. Penny might not have been able to pick better circumstances. The National League is ideal for Penny, and Dave Duncan is the cure for what ails a broken-down pitcher. Penny has shown that he’s not exactly broken, but Duncan has worked his magic with less talent, like the aforementioned Pineiro. Duncan is not a magic swami that can fix any one with an arm, but many a pitcher has enjoyed career best performance under Duncan’s tutelage.

CHONE projects that Penny will be good for 2.3 wins above replacement over about 160 innings. The Cardinals will pay him $7M, appearance incentives could push the deal for $9M, so that’s about the right price. Penny could be next in line to get some “Duncan magic” and vault himself into a nice payday in 2011.

Of course, there is some risk in play here for the Cardinals. Neither Lohse or Carpenter are locks to throw more than 130 innings. Lohse suffered with forearm tightness last year, which could be a bad omen, and there’s alway a bit of fear factor when dealing with Carpenter. There’s some boom-or-bust factor with the Cardinals’ rotation.

How do you think Brad Penny will pitch in 2010? Enter your projection here!

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

5 Responses to “Cardinals are Penny Wise”

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  1. RedBirdToo says:

    Cards also agreed NOT to off Arb it he is a Type A free agent at the end of the next season. I think teams like the Cards are undervaluing this benefit because it provides them with quite a bit of leverage on these one year deals if they work out. All in all nice signing, fairly low to moderate risk given its a one year deal balanced by the total dollars that are still kind of high for a guy that may be their 4th starter, but could potentially add a lot of value.

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    • Shi says:

      thats true, but they saved money by making that deal. so i guess the question is how much did they save? hard to say how much more penny would have wanted if mozeliak didnt make the concession. also, how much is a late first round pick worth? and how likely is penny to attain type A status next year? interesting to think about.

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    • Felonius_Monk says:

      That is completely immaterial because he won’t be a type A next season.

      He’s not even in the B-range now, and so he’ll need to have a career year to even sniff Type A, and, realistically, that’s probably not likely. I think he’s just covering his back. More likely he has a solid season, sneaks into type B, and the Cards get a nice supplemental pick for him. If he gets up to Type A, well, they’ve got their money’s worth out of him (and more) anyhow as he’s probably just put up a 5-6 WAR season on the cheap.

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  2. DWrek says:

    This is the exact type of moves the Cards need to be making. Its probably a bit high salary wise, but with it only being one year, theres hardly any risk.
    Pay a little more, lower the risk, get his contract out of the way of the way the Cadinals most important off season ever.

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    • circlechange11 says:

      I can just see Tony saying with a smirk on his face, “Okay, here you go Dave … Project # 174. Knock yourself out.”

      We’ve shuffled around bottom rotation starters so often that it really doesn’t seem to matter much whether it’s Pooper, Marqrap, Hellmeyer, etc. Pinyata has done reasonably well.

      It just sorta hit me, that a guy can make 7M/yr for throwing 160 IP and being a bottom rotation starter. Wow! How baseball has changed? People once wondered whether Kirby was worth 2M/y.

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