Kennedy returns to Cardinals with three-year deal

Updated: November 28, 2006, 8:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ST. LOUIS -- Signing second baseman Adam Kennedy filled out the St. Louis Cardinals' everyday lineup. Even with the addition of right-hander Kip Wells, their rotation remains two pitchers shy.

Kip Wells
Wells
Adam Kennedy
Kennedy

The Cardinals made their first big moves since winning the World Series, agreeing Tuesday to a $10 million, three-year contract with Kennedy and $4 million, one-year deal with Wells. They also agreed to a $900,000, one-year contract with backup catcher Gary Bennett and a minor league contract with Eli Marrero, once their starting catcher.

General manager Walt Jocketty said the Cardinals were in contact with three of their free-agent pitchers: Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Mark Mulder. He said St. Louis also might try to sign Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito, if the price is right.

"Right now I'm not sure what they're looking for, so it's hard to determine whether we're interested or not," Jocketty said. "There's a certain level we're not going to go to and it's not because we're trying to be cheap. At some point you have to be smart about the decisions you make."

Suppan, the NLCS MVP, and Weaver, who won the World Series finale, are likely to benefit from big free agent deals agreed to in the past month.

"We're going to sign them to the value we think is right, not what the market is dictating," Jocketty said. "The market right now is kind of silly, and it may continue to be silly."

Kennedy, selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the 1997 amateur draft, was considered the Cardinals' second baseman of the future before he was traded to the Anaheim Angels in 2000, a deal that brought Jim Edmonds to St. Louis. Kennedy now replaces Ronnie Belliard, who was acquired from Cleveland last summer and became a free agent.

"Different time, different player," Kennedy said of his return to St. Louis. "I think it'll be a good situation for everybody."

The 30-year-old Kennedy hit .273 with 55 RBI and 16 stolen bases last season for the Angels. He has a career batting average of .280 with 52 homers and 123 stolen bases.

He'll be reunited with David Eckstein, the 2006 World Series MVP who played alongside Kennedy with the Angels.

"Anytime you have a middle infield combination you're comfortable with it's going to make the decision that much easier," Kennedy said. "What a great teammate. It's an honor to play beside him."

Kennedy's contract calls for salaries of $2.5 million next year, $3.5 million in 2008 and $4 million in 2009. He made $3.38 million this year in the final season of a three-year contract.

Agent Paul Cohen told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that Kennedy turned down more money from two other clubs that had an interest. The Toronto Blue Jays are believed to be one of those teams.

The Cardinals have slotted the 29-year-old Wells to fill one of the three rotation vacancies. Adam Wainwright, the fill-in closer after Jason Isringhausen underwent hip surgery in September, is a wild card until the Cardinals see whether Isringhausen will be ready for the start of the season, but also could fill a starting spot.

Wells was 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA for the Pittsburgh Pirates, then was traded to Texas on July 31 and went 1-0 in two starts with the Rangers. He finished the season on the 15-day disabled list with a foot injury. He will have pins removed from the foot Wednesday and said he will be ready when spring training begins.

Jocketty said pitching coach Dave Duncan, who helped resurrect Weaver's career last year, pushed for the team to sign Wells, 57-74 with a 4.46 ERA for his career.

"If Duncan has an opinion on a pitcher, I listen to him because he's generally right," Jocketty said. "Just like when we acquired Weaver, he saw things he thought he could correct, and he feels the same way about Wells."

Wells led major league pitchers with 18 losses in 2005 and missed the first half of the 2006 season following surgery, performed in St. Louis, to repair a blocked artery near his right shoulder.

"St. Louis was at the top of my list," Wells said. "It was the right place at the right time for me."

Bennett hit .223 with four homers last season as the backup to Yadier Molina. Marrero, 33, began his career with the Cardinals in 1997. He hit just .217 in 30 games with Colorado last season, and has a career average of .243.

Bennett gets $850,000 next season, and the Cardinals hold a $900,000 option for 2008 with a $50,000 buyout. If St. Louis exercises the option, Bennett could void the option but would lose the buyout.

Earlier in the offseason, the Cardinals agreed to two-year contracts with Edmonds ($19 million) and utilityman Scott Spiezio ($4.5 million).

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.