January 11th, 2011

Tigers, Penny agree to terms on one-year deal

The Tigers and Brad Penny closed in Monday evening on what is expected to be have agreed to terms on a one-year contract, MLB.com has learned. The deal is pending a physical.
Foxsports.com reported early Tuesday morning that the one-year deal should be worth $3 million in base salary plus incentives. The Tigers would not confirm an agreement, per their policy of not commenting on specific free agents.
Penny tweeted on his official account Monday night that he was “getting closer to finding my new home. Should know by the end of the day.” He did not tweet which team, but indications later confirmed he has decided on the Tigers. 
That possibility seemed dim Monday, when the team released its list of non-roster invitees that was expected to would finalize its Spring Training roster. Their chances at adding a starting pitcher suddenly improved Monday evening, when Penny closed in on a decision.
The Tigers’ interest in Penny has been known since last month. They also have been linked to free agent starters Jeremy Bonderman — who pitched for Detroit the past eight years — and Freddy Garcia, but always appeared more focused on Penny. Talks never progressed far on Garcia or Bonderman.
Penny, who has seen his Twitter following more than double since the New Year, ranks among the better free agents left on the market in these final weeks of the offseason. He certainly has a familiarity factor in the Detroit front office. Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski gave Penny his first shot in the big leagues more than a decade ago as general manager of the Florida Marlins, who acquired Penny from Arizona in a trade for Matt Mantei in 1999 and put him in their rotation a year later. 
Since then, the right-hander has spent all but 24 starts of his 11-year career in the National League, including nine solid starts last year with the Cardinals before a strained right lat in late May persisted into a season-ending injury. His lone American League experience was a stretch in 2009 with the Red Sox, where he posted a 7-8 record and 5.21 ERA before getting his release and promptly finding his form in a late-season stint for the Giants.
Still, as long as he’s healthy, there are reasons to believe the 32-year-old is more than a National League pitcher with AL struggles.  First, the AL experience was less than a full season in Boston, with a hitter-friendly home ballpark and a selection of formidable lineups in the AL East. His .487 slugging percentage allowed with the Red Sox was by far the highest mark of his career, while his .838 OPS allowed in the same stretch was 97 points above his career number in that category.
Just as important, at this point in his career, coming off injury, he fits the profile of a low-risk, high-reward signing that would fit the Tigers’ needs. Dombrowski said last week that any signing they did make would most likely be with a one-year contract. That would especially follow for starting pitching as long as they hold onto top pitching prospects Andy Oliver and Jacob Turner, both of whom could be ready for the big leagues by season’s end and compete for rotation spots in 2012. 
The deal with Penny is expected to finish out the Tigers’ offseason dealings. Detroit is believed to be set with its position players, including invites, barring an unforeseen development. They briefly had interest in Fred Lewis earlier this offseason as a reserve outfielder, but talks didn’t progress far.