On January 14, 2008, the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to swap third basemen with the Blue Jays—sending 32-year-old Scott Rolen to Toronto for 31-year-old Troy Glaus. In my opinion, when Rolen left, stability at the position followed along with him as well. Despite playing only 56 games in 2005, Rolen still played in 75% of the games from 2003 through 2007 (I didn't include 2002, the year the Cardinals traded for him). He made four All-Star teams and won three Gold Gloves.
Six years after the trade, the Cardinals have had at least 20 different players play at least one game at third base—starting with Glaus, ending with Freese, and including players like Cesar Izturis, Khalil Greene, Rico Washington, and Jarrett Hoffpauir in between. They have had four different opening day starters at the position: Glaus in 2008, Brian Barden in 2009, David Freese from 2010 to 2012, and Carpenter in 2013. Needless to say the position has been quite volatile over the years.
Well, the organization hopes that by signing Carpenter to a six-year extension, it will bring much needed stability to the position for the long term. If Carpenter can replicate his 2013 durability, this is exactly what it will bring. Carpenter started 154 games (at four different positions) last season—which, if repeated, would be the most games started at the position by a Cardinal since Glaus' 146 back in 2008.
Most articles since the news of the extension have discussed whether or not he will be able to replicate his 2013 numbers over the course of his six-year contract. I would love him to, but to be completely honest, I am realistically expecting a drop in production, and that's okay. Considering he was on another planet at the plate last season, he can regress from his 2013 numbers and still be a good value at $8.67 million AAV. Carpenter was one of the best players in the league last season (4th in MVP voting) and locking him up for his on-field performance was in the team's best interest.
However, one aspect that hasn't really been covered is the effect this extension will have on Mike Matheny as manager. Two years into his managerial career, he has received ample criticism for some of the tactical decisions (i.e. excess sacrifice bunting, especially with the #2 hitter) that he has made. Managing is not an easy task, especially for one who never managed before, and it requires an inordinate amount of decision making over the course of a 162-game season (plus playoffs). Not many people will argue with that. Well, Carpenter's extension just made two of Matheny's decisions a whole lot easier: He can etch #13 in as the team's lead-off hitter and starting third baseman for many years to come.