The Cardinals announced not too long ago they were calling a press conference at 10:45 am today to make a major announcement. Speculation was brief but swift with injury concerns, contract extensions, upgraded WiFi? There was not enough time to really let the rumors run rampant as Derrick Goold ended the suspense by announcing that Kolten Wong had agreed to a contract extension with the St. Louis Cardinals. He further reported the deal "is expected to be five years in length" and includes a team option at the end of the deal.
Update: Chris Cotiillo is reporting that the deal is for 5 years and $25.5 million guaranteed with a $12.5 option for the sixth year. That is a pretty good deal for the Cardinals, buying out potentially two free agent seasons while guaranteeing just under $26 million.
A five-year contract with an options would buy out two free agent seasons as well as his three arbitration years and this season where he was set to make the minimum. The free agent seasons are the keys for the Cardinals as the Cardinals could have gone year to year with Wong through the 2019 season with no guaranteed money. This sends a clear signal that Wong is part of the future for the Cardinals, although the Allen Craig trade showed that continued production is necessary to remain a part of the future. The Cardinals clearly believe in Wong, and the money is not likely to be large enough to have any bad long-term ramifications for the team.
While there are those who might not think an extension for Kolten Wong is worthy of a major announcement, a signing like this is significant for the Cardinals and Wong moving forward. In the past few years the Cardinals have signed similar extensions with Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, and Jaime Garcia, with two of those three looking pretty good right now. Going back even further, the Cardinals got major bargains in signing Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols to contracts when they were at the same stage as Kolten Wong, who will be arbitration-eligible after this season. These types of deals have saved teams millions upon millions of dollars by getting free agent seasons at bargain prices.
Wong is in heading into his third season as starting second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals and though he has struggled at times during each of those seasons he has shown flashes of being a very good player. As noted in his projections post, "from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 Wong hit .277/.325/.454 with 20 home runs and a 115 wRC+ in 571 plate appearances." From the same piece covering our recent work on Wong:
John Fleming recently took an interesting look at young second basemen to look for the elite players and whether Kolten Wong could emerge from the group. I took a look at the possibility of Kolten Wong in the leadoff spot should Matt Carpenter be moved down in the order, and Ben Markham looked at the potential for a breakout.
Wong has All-Star potential and the Cardinals are getting him into the fold long-term before he hits arbitration, which is when it becomes more difficult and more expensive to buy out free agent seasons. Over at Fangraphs, I wrote about the potential hitters who could get locked up this spring, and in regards to Wong, I said the following:
The most realistic option above is Kolten Wong, who has put together two average seasons and slowed toward the end of last season.
Overall, this is likely a win for both the Cardinals and Wong. The question now is if the Cardinals will do the same for Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha.