One could argue both sides of Chris Carpenter’s two-year extension for the 2012 and 2013 seasons at a reported $21 million.
Some see it as a benefit to the St. Louis Cardinals. The club keeps its co-ace for two more seasons and makes another move to hold its current roster together for another run or two. They save a few million dollars in 2012, perhaps as much as four, that can be deployed on other impending free agents.
Others consider it a reward to a long-time soldier, who has performed admirably for the organization for almost a decade. Carpenter’s personal career pinnacle was reached in 2005, when he took home the National League Cy Young Award.
Still others worry that it locks down a 2012 rotation of Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia, all of whom are on multi-year deals. This leaves no apparent room for trade acquisition and impending free agent Edwin Jackson to remain or for lefty Marc Rzepczynski to get a shot at starting.
The other side of the argument could be made that by locking down Carpenter, it might actually help the Cardinals unload one of more of their weakest links in Lohse and Westbrook. Still, considerable salary would have to be eaten.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Carpenter’s $21 million take over the next two years will be the same as Wainwright is set to earn. Some point out that Carpenter may have been able secure more money on the open market. Lohse is set to make $11.875 million next year and as such, could be the highest-paid starter on the staff. Westbrook is contracted to make $8.5 million in 2012.
The potential of eating some of Carpenter’s salary later is at the root of the concerns of some. They worry about the 36-year-old, who is in the decline phase of a very good career. Carp has struggled at times in 2011 (3.79 ERA versus his 3.10 Cards career mark and just 18 quality starts in 30 outings), but has also lacked run support on a number of occasions (his 3.9 runs of support per game is the lowest among Cardinals starters).
As a player with ten years of major league service time, including the last five years with the same team, Carpenter already enjoyed no-trade protection.
Finally, there is the issue of health. Pending any unforeseen problems during the final few weeks of the season, Carpenter has accomplished something he has never done as a major leaguer. 2011 marks his third consecutive season without suffering a major injury.
1999 – Elbow surgery (bone spur) – missed five weeks during season
2002 – Shoulder surgery (labrum tear) – missed 112 games
2003 – Shoulder surgery (scar tissue removal) – cut short rehab – missed entire season
2004 – Nerve irritation in upper arm – missed final two weeks plus post-season
2006 – Bursitis in shoulder – missed just 15 days
2007 – Elbow surgery (Tommy John) – missed entire season except for opening day
2008 – Elbow nerve transposition – pitched just 15 innings
Does Carpenter’s recent injury avoidance bode well for his future as he ages or is it a signal of potential trouble ahead? To some, it does not matter. What do you think?