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Kennedy returns to Cardinals with three-year deal

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.