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.

19 Responses to 2012 Contract Issues: St. Louis Cardinals Leave a Reply

  1.  The Cards by far have the most complex and interesting offseason ahead of them in all of baseball. 

    •  This is the 24th entry in this series, and I agree.  Lot of big names and important situations.

      •  If you just consider Pujols, Wainwright, Carpenter and Berkman, those are 4 massive decisions with huge financial implications. And that doesnt even include a bullpen that needs a major sort out or smaller moves to fine-tune the team. Good luck Mr. Mozeliak

  2. gunsnascar 4 years ago

     The berkman pick up is a fantastic back up plan if albert walks. With berkman at 1st there are many other options for the cards next off season to make improvements. I see the cubs off season even more interesting though heading into 2012

    •  St Louis and Chicago will both have intriguing off-seasons, for sure.  A lot is riding for both teams; the Cardinals with attempting to keep their role players, and Chicago with deciding what to do with all the money coming off the books.

      • start_wearing_purple
        start_wearing_purple 4 years ago

        And there’s a good chance both will be the major players for Pujols.  

  3.  Heres a question…with Kendry(s) Morales basically missing his 2nd season in a row, does that make the Angels a serious contender for Pujols along with the Cubs?

    • JBauster 4 years ago

      Mark Trumbo thinks otherwise

      •  Trumbo is barely holding his own weight in a power position though. Granted hes only a rookie but hes not exactly as highly touted as Trout. 

        • Lunchbox45 4 years ago

          who is? 

        • jwsox 4 years ago

          And any gm that would take a rookie 1st basemen over Albert needs to be fired asap. Trumbo may turn out to be great in a few years but Albert already is and the angles always have the possibility of the dh for either Albert, trumbo, or kendrys.

          •  Any GM that would take a rookie 1st baseman over Pujols wouldn’t be foolish at all if the prospect has a high upside – like Trumbo – and if Pujols would dampen your team’s spending power. 

            Yes, we all know Arte has loads of cash and has spent well in the past, but giving $200-$300 million dollars to anyone is not an obvious decision. 

            I can’t imagine the dominoes that have to fall in order for something like that to happen for any team.

  4. Lunchbox45 4 years ago

    I actually think that the cards are better off not spending 25 million a year for 10 years on Pujols.

    I really hope he decreases his financial demands in order to stay with the cards. I don’t see a huge difference in 200 million to 250 million.  

    • jwsox 4 years ago

      Most people with half a brain agree with you. Don’t get me wrong he is the best and will continue to produce at an MVP level for years but the only way he gets 8+ years is if it’s with a AL team that can dh him eventually.

    • gunsnascar 4 years ago

       I seem to remember that there was a estimate of pujols worth in a article here I think that had him proforming at the 44 mil leval last year. I could only hope that he can continue to play at that leval for another 6 years so his pay can be somewhat justified. If he does that whoever gets him could get their moneys worth outta him to some degree. I can see the cards resigning him also but it wont be comfortable as I have seen him sign for a “hometown discount” in his last contract, and now he is helping his home land heavily now. So a huge payday helps him help his fellow dominicans. Its hard to say that he doesnt deserve 30 mil per year because his preformance year in and out screams differently especially when you consider his charity work. Albert is 1 of the greatest baseball players of all time and is a generous human being so someone will give him what he needs to carry on. This is going to be the most interesting contracts that I have ever noticed. and lunchbox45 there is a huge 50 mil difference that could help his country even more than he has allready.

      • Redbirds16 4 years ago

        The question isn’t whether or not he ‘deserves’ a big payday, the question is whether or not the Cardinals can afford it. Given Tim’s calculations of the salary obligations and restrictions the Cards have (assuming they don’t raise their budget), there’s no way they’ll be able to keep their current roster together for 2012. 

        Berkman and Pujols are due for big paydays and the Cards might not be able to afford to pay Pujols alone, much less both. If the Cards can sign Jose Reyes and Lance Berkman for the same $$ as Pujols, well… adios, mang.

        I think Carp and Buerhle will be weighed against each other. Both will probably want to play in StL (slight hometown discount?), but there’s only room in the budget for 1 of them.

  5.  It would be interesting to see big upgrades at SS and 2B if Pujols walks and keep Berkman. Like Reyes or Rollins at SS.

  6. Ferrariman 4 years ago

    Carpenter’s option will be picked, as will molina and wainwright.  If pujols and berkman don’t return and theriot and schumaker are nontendered, that could be a lot of spending money after the arb raises to motte, mcclellan, raz, and garcia.  Add in the fact they could/should use craig at either 1b or rf and he is controlled, this could be an interesting off season.  Lots of money available.

    • Redbirds16 4 years ago

      If Carp’s healthy, the Cards could float him a Westbrook like deal, dropping his 2012 salary to the 12-13 million range and adding two years plus an option third. If Carp passes, then the Cards could sign Buerhle and pick up Carp’s option with the intention of trading him to the Yanks for essentially a first round talent and salary (to come out even on the prospect front after losing their 2012 1st round pick to the ChiSox). This might save them a few million while holding even on the prospects.

      Food for thought: if the Cards fail to resign any of their big names, what’s wrong with letting them go? The Cards will be getting picks from Pujols, Berkman, and likely Carpenter (I don’t think he accepts arb). That should bring in a good haul of prospects to say the least, plus the Cards would have ~$30 million to spend on rounding out the team with free agents (note: extend Rasmus!). The Cards should still be “competitive” in 2012 although probably a .500 team. But with a revamped farm, they could probably be real contenders by 2013 and certainly be the class of the division again by 2014 (and be better stocked with talent for the rest of the decade). 

      A lot of big decisions for the Cards coming up, but I won’t be feeling sorry for them anytime soon. They’re well positioned, regardless of the path they choose. They’ve just got to be confident in their choice and see it through.

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