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Cardinals Decline Options on Matt Carpenter & Carlos Martinez

The former All-Stars are now free agents.

Cincinnati Reds v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Two pieces — fixtures, at times — of Cardinals teams dating back to 2012 will not continue their tenures in St. Louis any further. On Thursday, the Cardinals declined the 2022 options for both Matt Carpenter and Carlos Martinez, making them both free agents.

Carpenter, who will soon turn 36, debuted with the Cardinals back in 2011 and has appeared in more than 110 games each season from 2012 on (excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign). Carpenter had a 6.6 WAR (Baseball Reference) and 140 OPS+ in 2013, when he finished fourth in MVP voting with a season highlighted by 55 doubles and 126 runs scored. Carpenter led the league in 2014 with 95 walks, and topped the league again in 2015 with 44 doubles. Carp was an All-Star in 2013, 2014, and 2016.

In 2017, Carpenter saw a stiff drop in batting average — down to .241 after hitting a combined .285 in his five seasons prior. Carpenter hit a career-high 36 homers in 2018, but his strikeouts were mounting. In 465 games, spanning from 2018 to 2021, Carpenter’s strikeout rate was 26 percent.

Martinez caught national attention in 2013 with a triple-digit fastball as a 22-year-old rookie, guided by Yadier Molina in the 2013 World Series against the Red Sox. Martinez appeared in 57 games, primarily out of the bullpen, in 2014 before switching to the starting rotation in 2015. After the tragic death of his best friend and Cardinals teammate Oscar Tavares, Martinez wanted to honor his friend on the mound by changing his number to ‘18’ — and taking his performance to the next level. Martinez made 29 starts in 2015, earning All-Star honors, and maintaining a 3.21 FIP and 9.2 K/9 rate in just shy of 180 innings.

Martinez put up similar numbers in 2016 and 2017, with 31 and 32 starts in those seasons, respectively. Martinez topped 200 innings (205) and whiffed 217 batters in 2017 — his second All-Star season.

Not only was Martinez a dependable starter every fifth day, the right-hander knew how to have fun. From splashing players (Carpenter, especially) with water following long balls to building cup pyramids in the dugout..

A recurring right shoulder injury led Martinez to transition back to the bullpen in 2018. The next year, Martinez made 48 appearances (all as a reliever), saving 24 games and punching out 58 batters in 48 frames. Nonetheless, the injury bug kept on biting Martinez — with an oblique strain in 2020 and sprains of his ankle and thumb in 2021. Between ‘20 and ‘21, Martinez had a 6.95 ERA in 102 innings with a 4.0 BB/9 rate. The 2022 campaign will be Martinez’s age-30 season.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s in store for Carpenter and Martinez. The last couple of seasons should not be what we remember most about their careers in St. Louis.