The Cardinals and right-hander Carlos Martinez have mutual interest in a contract extension, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The two sides plan to discuss a deal in the coming months and could reach an agreement by next season, per Goold, who notes that the Cardinals have previously signed the likes of Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong to extensions during spring training.
Martinez is currently on track to make his first trip through arbitration during the offseason, which means the Cardinals’ days of paying him a relative pittance are over. As a result, there’s less incentive for him to sign a team-friendly extension. He’ll also be eligible for arbitration after the next two seasons and is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the 2019 campaign.A long-term deal would require the Cardinals to buy out free agent years for Martinez, thereby increasing his price tag.
The Cardinals signed Martinez as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2010, and after spending a couple seasons as primarily a reliever in the majors, the 25-year-old served as a front-line starter over the past two campaigns. Martinez logged a 3.04 ERA, 8.02 K/9, 3.23 BB/9 and 56.4 percent ground-ball rate over a career-high 195 1/3 innings in 2016, and he was similarly effective last year. In 2015, his first season as a full-time starter, Martinez earned an All-Star nod and posted a 3.01 ERA and 54.5 percent ground rate to complement a 9.22 K/9 and 3.13 BB/9 in 179 2/3 frames. Wins also matter to arbitrators and agents, and Martinez has racked up 30 victories against just 16 losses since last season.
Among starters who have signed extensions over the past year-plus, the Indians’ Corey Kluber is a potential comparable for Martinez solely in terms of production. Kluber was entering his age-29 season at the time (April 2015) and still hadn’t reached arbitration eligibility, but his output from 2013-14 was similar to Martinez’s from 2015-16. In the two years before his extension, Kluber went 29-14 with a 2.98 ERA and 9.52 K/9 against 1.97 BB/9 over 383 innings. That led to a five-year extension worth $38.5MM in guarantees. As a younger starter who’s closer to free agency than Kluber was, Martinez could certainly have a case for a richer deal.