- The Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen is the best bargain in baseball, opines Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Cook notes McCutchen is the 158th-highest-paid player this season and 77 players have richer contracts than the six-year, $51.5MM extension (plus a $14.75MM club option for 2018) he signed in March 2012. The 27-year-old is following up his 2013 MVP season with a slash of .313/.423/.527 with 11 home runs and a league-leading 52 walks.
- The Brewers are legitimate contenders, writes MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby, and their confidence was bolstered by the offseason free agent signing of Matt Garza. “When we signed Garza, I think that’s when we started to feel something could happen,” Jonathan Lucroy told Ringolsby. Added Ryan Braun, “It showed the front office and ownership felt we were a good team.“
- An under-the-radar free agent signing has also paid huge dividends for the Brewers, reports Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Brewers inked Zach Duke inked to a minor league deal in January and the left-hander has been well worth the investment posting a 1.57 ERA, a K/BB ratio of 7.8 (39/5), and a 53% groundball rate.
- The Cardinals’ priorities as the Trade Deadline approaches, according to the St. Louis Post-Disptach’s Joe Strauss, include finding an offensive upgrade at second base (or third base, if Matt Carpenter is moved to second), a bench bat, and determining whether Pat Neshek can be a reliable 8th inning option.
- Earlier today, the Cubs added Tsuyoshi Wada to their 40-man roster and promptly optioned him to Triple-A. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald tweets Wada could slide into the Cubs’ rotation, if a starter is dealt between now and the Trade Deadline.
The Cardinals have signed Matt Carpenter to a six-year, $52MM extension, locking up their star infielder through his age-33 season. The contract breakdown is as follows: Carpenter will receive a $1.5MM signing bonus, $1MM in 2014, and then salaries of $3.5MM, $6.25MM, $9.75MM, $13.5MM and $14.5MM. In 2020, the Cardinals will have an $18.5MM option on his services, with a $2MM buyout. The Cardinals announced the signing at a 10:00am press conference. Carpenter is represented by SSG Baseball.
Earlier this week, it emerged that Carpenter and the Cardinals were close to an extension that could be worth $50MM-$55MM. Carpenter does not become arbitration-eligible until next offseason and is not eligible for free agency after 2017. Carpenter got a late start on his MLB career, not emerging as a semi-regular player until 2012, when he was 26. That means that, even without an extension, he wouldn't be eligible for free agency until shortly before his 32nd birthday. For the Cardinals, signing Carpenter to an extension now may allow them to control Carpenter for two seasons beyond that, while keeping his arbitration-year salaries manageable. For Carpenter, an extension guarantees him at least one big payday.
Carpenter is coming off a banner season in which he hit .318/.392/.481 and posted 7.0 WAR as the Cardinals' regular second baseman. Carpenter also finished fourth in NL MVP voting, and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes that Carpenter's contract comes in a bit above that of the $51.5MM extension first-place finisher Andrew McCutchen signed prior to the 2012 season, when he too had between two and three years of service time. Carpenter's extension also comes one year to the day after the Cardinals signed Allen Craig for five years and $31MM; Craig also had between two and three years' service at the time of his deal.
Carpenter will shift to third for the coming season as the Cardinals make way for Kolten Wong at second. The Cardinals traded David Freese to the Angels this offseason in a bid to upgrade their defense, clearing a spot at the hot corner for Carpenter.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch originally tweeted that Carpenter and the Cardinals had agreed to a deal. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported that the deal was for $52MM. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to tweet the year-to-year breakdown of the contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With Matt Carpenter and the Cardinals are reportedly closing in on a six-year extension that will be worth $50-55MM, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the long road Carpenter has taken to get to this point. Carpenter had to settle for a $1,000 signing bonus as a fifth-year senior out of Texas Christian University and didn't establish himself as a big league regular until age-27. Goold spoke to manager Mike Matheny and several Cardinals players about Carpenter's perseverance and leadership. Said Matheny: "One of those great stories — a guy who didn’t necessarily have the golden road paved for him. He came in here and worked his butt off."
Here's more on the Cardinals and the NL Central…
- Matheny also told Goold that Cardinals non-roster invitee Pat Neshek's chances of making the club are largely tied to his ability to retire left-handed hitters. Neshek did just that in his most recent appearance, but lefties have been a problem for the sidearmer over the past two seasons. Matheny doesn't want two specialists in his bullpen, and he already has lefty specialist Randy Choate as a fixture in the relief corps.
- MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince looks at the turbulent last year for Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who has found himself at the center of controversy and trade speculation. Castrovince notes that it was Phillips' brash attitude that got him traded from Cleveland to Cincinnati, and some of that has been on display in recent months. Phillips laughed off the notion that he's declined, citing his RBI total and Gold Glove Award, but did say that the offseason trade rumors hurt him to an extent. "This offseason, I really found out that baseball is a business," he told Castrovince. "…Did it [hurt]? Yeah, it [hurt]. I did as much as I can for this organization when it comes to social media or caravans or Reds Fest. I did it all because I wanted to do it. Not because they asked me to do it; because I wanted to do it."
- Emilio Bonifacio and Jose Veras have a presence among the Cubs' young Latin American prospects, right-hander Carlos Villanueva tells MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Villanueva says that prospects such as Arismendy Alcantara and Jeudy Valdez idolized Bonifacio as they grew up watching him play in the Dominican Winter Leagues. Bonifacio tells Muskat he tries to laugh and share his energy with everyone to keep the clubhouse positive.
11:50am: Carpenter's deal will be worth $50-55MM if completed, Rosenthal tweets.
11:17am: The Cardinals and Carpenter are closing in on an extension of "significant length," sources tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The deal is believed to buy out all three of his arbitration seasons and at least one free agent season, "and probably more than that," according to Heyman.
12:06am: The Cardinals are talking with Matt Carpenter about a long-term contract extension, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Cards GM John Mozeliak confirmed that he had been in contact with Carpenter's agents at SSG, and though the general manager gave no hint as to whether or not a deal was close, Goold said that Carpenter left the club's Spring Training facility in the middle of Wednesday's game, "presumably to have a physical."
2013 was Carpenter's first full season as a Major Leaguer and he delivered in style, hitting .318/.392/.481 with 11 homers and leading the league in runs (126), doubles (55) and hits (199) while producing 7.0 fWAR and 6.6 rWAR. He did all of this while playing primarily as a second baseman, a position Carpenter had never played as a professional before last year (he'll move back to third base this season). This spectacular campaign earned Carpenter his first All-Star appearance, an NL Silver Slugger Award and a fourth-place finish in NL MVP voting.
Carpenter was also one of baseball's top bargains, as he did all that while still playing for around the league minimum. He isn't eligible for arbitration until next winter and the Cards have him under team control through the 2017 season, and an extension would give St. Louis some cost-certainty through those three arb years. Since Carpenter isn't eligible for free agency until his age-31 season is over, a multiyear pact would give him security now rather than risk missing his chance at a big contract if he's already seen as being on the decline once he hits the open market. This isn't to say that Carpenter will be at a negotiating disadvantage, of course, as he's still coming off an elite season.
Max Scherzer of the Tigers is one potential beneficiary of Clayton Kershaw's huge new contract, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. Now that Kershaw has signed, Scherzer and Jon Lester become the top 2014-2015 free agent pitchers. Scherzer obviously isn't likely to top Kershaw's $215MM total, but the prospect of hitting the free-agent market probably just became even more attractive for Scherzer, which should make it even tougher for the Tigers to first sign him long-term. Scherzer and the Tigers recently agreed on a one-year deal worth $15.525MM for 2014, avoiding arbitration. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Theo Epstein says the Cubs aren't through making moves this offseason, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets. The team has an offer pending with Masahiro Tanaka, and would like to get another pitcher even if Tanaka signs elsewhere.
- Former pitcher Chris Carpenter is set to join the Cardinals' front office, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. The two parties appear to have agreed on Carpenter's role, but he does not yet seem to have an official title. He will be involved in scouting, and will participate in big-league spring training in some capacity.
- The Cardinals and Matt Carpenter could discuss an extension in spring training, but are not likely to reach a deal anytime soon, Goold notes.