There had been rumors and discussions of a contract extension all winter between the Cardinals and their best pitcher, Carlos Martinez. Those discussions seemed to slow down a bit as the two parties exchanged arbitration figures and appeared headed toward a hearing over less than half a million dollars. Martinez looked headed for a guaranteed payday of a little over $4 million in arbitration. If the reports from Jon Heyman come to fruition, Martinez is about to guarantee himself more than ten times that amount.
Jon Heyman is reporting that the Cardinals are signing Martinez to a five-year deal worth $51 million guaranteed. Heyman indicated there could be options which could tie up Martinez for even longer. Martinez, though not necessarily given the title, has been the Cardinals best pitcher over the last two seasons and in his career has put up a 3.32 ERA with a 3.36 FIP to match in just under 500 innings good for an 8.4 WAR.
Martinez enters the 2017 season at just 25 years old and was set for his first of three arbitration years before free agency. Those years of arbitration likely would have been worth around $20 million. Providing a discount for those years would put the two free agent seasons Martinez is giving up at around $17 million per season.
Martinez would have hit free agency after the 2019 season having just turned 28 years old. Tacking on two more years would put his free agency off until after 2021 when Martinez would be 30 years old. If Martinez pitches like he has the past two seasons, he would still be in line for a major payday at that time. If he gets hurt or becomes ineffective, he would still have the guaranteed $51 million.
While Brett Cecil and Dexter Fowler were big signings for the Cardinals this winter, locking up Martinez long term is probably the most encouraging development of the winter. Martinez has been one of the 20 best pitchers in baseball over the last two years, and he still has the potential for more.
We will have much more on the signing tomorrow.