There were rumblings of a contract extension at the beginning of Spring Training. Apparently both the Cardinals and Matt Carpenter have found the necessary momentum to put a deal in place. This was reported in the early hours of the morning.
According to the article, Carpenter was removed from yesterday's spring game so he could have a physical taken. Where there is smoke, there is apparently more smoke, as Ken Rosenthal picked up on the extension and reported on the potential terms.
Source: Matt Carpenter’s six-year deal with #STLCards, if completed, will be worth between $50M and $55M.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 6, 2014
When Allen Craig signed his deal last year at this time, he was given five guaranteed years at $31 million. If completed, this deal recognizes a few different factors that work in Carpenter's favor. First, baseball continues to be awash in cash with much of that money going to extending young players and buying out early free agent years as opposed to paying players well into their thirties. Second, it recognizes Carpenter's ability as a player. As either a second or third baseman, Carpenter plays a premium position. The deal essentially gives Carpenter a small raise over the money Craig will receive and then guarantees the sixth year as opposed to making it a team option.
Without a contract extension, Carpenter would head into free agency looking for a contract beginning in his age-32 season. A six-year deal would buy out two of those years and prevent him from moving until he is 34. Giving up those years is a very big deal for Carpenter, as this potential contract would be his only big money deal. For the Cardinals, now is the only realistic time to get a deal done with Carpenter. Carpenter is in his last year as a pre-arbitration player, making around half a million dollars. Once he gets into arbitration, he becomes an automatic millionaire and there is considerably less incentive to strike a long term deal and protect him against injury.
This deal does pose a risk for the Cardinals as they are agreeing to pay him six years from now when they could have gone year to year over the next four years. The deal would provide them certainty, prevents going to arbitration, and potentially get a good deal in Carpenter's two free agent years if he continues to play well. Costs for players on the open market keep rising as the Cardinals found out when they signed Jhonny Peralta this offseason.
As I wrote last month:
Carpenter will not receive a Freeman-type deal, but there is significant room between Craig and Freeman...To sign Carpenter long-term, it will likely take more money than Craig, either in average annual value or at least one more guaranteed year at the end. If Carpenter stays healthy, his price will only go up. Both the Cardinals and Carpenter know it. Finding a middle ground could be difficult, but if the Cardinals believe he will continue to be anywhere near as good as he was in 2013, an extension might come sooner rather than later.
If an extension is reached, the Cardinals just showed Carpenter and their fans just how good they expect him to play, not just this year, but through 2019.