The St. Louis Cardinals could have "renewed" Allen Craig's contract in 2013 for just over the league minimum—he's that far away from free agency—but on Friday morning they surprised baseball by locking him up through the 2018 season, announcing a five-year contract extension (with a club-option sixth year) that will buy out all his arbitration years and at least one year of free agency. No terms were immediately available, but Craig's distance from free agency means it'll probably look like a bargain.
After a 2010 season spent shuttled between the major and minor leagues and plastered on the backs of milk cartons, Craig forced his way into the Cardinals' batting order, where he's hit ever since (no matter where he is on defense.) In 194 games since 2011 he's hit .309/.357/.532, with 33 home runs and 132 RBI.
The contract gives the Cardinals control over their late-blooming slugger through his age-33 season, which seems just about ideal—at a glance, the contract seems to delay free agency just long enough to keep the Cardinals from feeling obligated to extend him to a much more expensive long-term contract after he turns 30.
But the contract kremlinology isn't the point, at least this morning—the point is that Cardinals fans will have Allen Craig (and hopefully Torty Craig) to look forward to for the next five years.