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2012 Contract Issues: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series, and their offseason should have plenty of intrigue.  Here's what the team faces after the 2011 season:

Eligible For Free Agency (8)

  • Earlier this month, three GMs who spoke to SI's Jon Heyman predicted Albert Pujols would re-sign with the Cardinals after the season.  The situation seems to have gone dormant since Spring Training, but not in a discouraging way.  Perhaps coincidentally, Pujols is having the worst season of his career.  It's only about a quarter over, but should the slugger fail to reach the .400 OBP and .600 SLG for which he's typically been considered a lock, that would have to affect the price tag and make the Cardinals' offer (north of $200MM over nine years) more palatable.  Still, it's hard to picture Pujols not requiring a salary in the $24-26MM range.
  • Lance Berkman has proven last year's power outage to be a fluke; he's leading the NL with a .694 SLG.  He's close to the top in home runs, RBI, and OBP as well.  Should Berkman's health and amazing offense continue, maybe he'll have his eye on Paul Konerko's three-year, $37.5MM contract, which was similarly signed by a mid-30s player coming off a huge year.  I imagine he'll have to let the Cardinals resolve the Pujols situation first, if he's aiming to return.
  • Ryan Franklin seems headed for a minor league deal, as he's lost his closing job and has been battered in his first 13 2/3 innings.
  • The sample is tiny, but Trever Miller hasn't handled lefties well this year.  Miguel Batista is another Cardinals veteran reliever whose ERA is much better than his peripheral statistics.
  • Gerald Laird, Nick Punto, and Brian Tallet are also eligible for free agency.

Contract Options (3)

  • Chris Carpenter: $15MM club option with a $1MM buyout.  Though Carpenter's ERA is 4.95, his supporting stats are similar to last year's.  The Cardinals will have to decide on him before Pujols, most likely.  If Carpenter is healthy the Cards probably have to pick this up, knowing that they could at least trade the 36-year-old if need be.
  • Adam Wainwright: $9MM club option for 2012, $12MM club option for '13, must be either voided or exercised at the same time.  In his conversation with Heyman earlier this month, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak seemed to imply the team is planning to exercise Wainwright's options.  Barring any major setbacks it's an easy call.
  • Yadier Molina: $7MM club option with a $750K buyout.  This option seems likely to be exercised.

Arbitration Eligible (6)

The Cardinals have several notable arbitration cases, starting with Rasmus and Garcia.  Rasmus' career numbers should keep him at $3.5MM or less.  Garcia's numbers are limited by missing the '09 season, but he's having a fantastic year and should jump past $3MM (more on that from MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith this week).  Theriot and Schumaker are not locks to be tendered, but we'll see how the rest of the season plays out for them.  If everyone is retained I'm estimating around $18MM for the team's arbitration eligibles.

2012 Payroll Obligation

The Cardinals' 2012 payroll obligation, according to Cot's, is $47.538MM not including the buyouts for Carpenter and Molina.  If the three options are picked up they'll be at $78.538MM, and the arbitration eligible group could bring commitments up to $97MM.  If payroll remains steady at $109MM, there's only about $12MM to work with before accounting for minimum salary players.  I'm sure the Cardinals have already worked out ways to fit in a salary exceeding $20MM for Pujols, whether by backloading, raising payroll, or not retaining Carpenter, Theriot, and Schumaker.  But if Pujols is re-signed it's hard to see where an eight-figure salary for Berkman fits in or how the Cardinals will have any significant money for other improvements.








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