The St. Louis Cardinals sorted out one of their remaining arbitration-eligible contract negotiations on Tuesday, signing Jason Motte to a two-year deal reportedly worth $12 million. It's an odd end to talks that began with Motte asking for $5.5 million over one year and the Cardinals countering with $4.5; Motte gets a raise and a second year, and the Cardinals get zero years of free agency.
This isn't quite as superfluous-feeling as the two-year Skip Schumaker deal, but I'm not sure what the Cardinals get out of it; they have cost certainty, but only inasmuch as they're already paying Motte for 2014 as if he had a very successful 2013.
In any case: For a 31-year-old reliever who is almost entirely dependent on throwing hard, Motte has a pretty stellar portfolio. In 2012 he struck out a career-high 10.8 batters per nine innings, and his walk rate over the last two years has fallen to crafty-righty levels. Last year his fastball's average velocity reached a career high (96.8) while declining to just ("just") 72.1% of his pitches thrown.
Sometimes it feels like all relief pitching is performed on a tightrope, and really good relievers fall off their narrow perch every year, but Motte looks like a pretty good bet to perform through 2014. I'm just not sure what the Cardinals gained by confirming now that he'd be doing it for them.