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TCN Blog 2014 Top Story #16: Carpenter’s Cardinals Commitment

Matt Carpenter may be one of baseball’s lowest-profile stars, but after signing a six-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals this past spring, he will have plenty of time to raise awareness.

Having turned 29 years of age the day before Thanksgiving, Carpenter was a bit of a late bloomer. The five-year college player at TCU after Tommy John surgery was drafted by St. Louis in the 13th round in 2009, and reached the Majors midway through the 2011 season as a third baseman.

Playing six different positions for the 2012 Cardinals, Carpenter cobbled together 340 plate appearances. Continuing a proficiency he displayed in the Minors, where he had a career on-base mark of .408, Carpenter extended his past into his present by logging an impressive .392 OBP. He finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.

Blocked by 2011 World Series hero David Freese at the hot corner and with his club needing help at second base, Carpenter successfully initiated an on-the-fly position change for 2013. Not only did he prove his mettle with the glove, the left-handed hitter went on to lead the league in hits, falling just one short of 200. Carpenter also paced the circuit in runs scored and doubles.

In recognition of his emergence, Carpenter was recognized with his first All-Star selection, a Silver Slugger Award and a fourth-place finish in the National League Most Valuable Player voting.

More importantly, St. Louis validated the performance with a long-term contract offer to a player who had barely two years of major league service at the time. This March, the two sides came to terms on a heavily-backloaded deal that will keep Carpenter in a Cardinals uniform through at least his age 33 season, 2019.

The base commitment is $52 million over six years. Carpenter received a $1.5 million signing bonus, $1 million in 2014, and then salaries of $3.5 million, $6.25 million, $9.75 million, $13.5 million and $14.5 million. In 2020, the Cardinals will have an $18.5 million option on his services, with a $2 million buyout. He gets a $500,000 payment if traded anytime through 2017 and $1 million if dealt during the remainder of the contract.

Carpenter would have been first-time arbitration eligible this fall, so the new deal covers his first two years of free agency, or third if the option is exercised. The dollar amounts roughly approximate what he might earn during those seasons, reduced by the risk the club assumed in making the full commitment up front.

With Freese traded away to the Angels, the Cardinals moved Carpenter back to his long-time position of third base for 2014. While many observers expected an even more comfortable hitter at the plate, this season did not start that way.

Carpenter got out of the blocks slowly – very slowly. A month and a half into the schedule, his line was a pedestrian .256/.356/.319/.675. In the time since, Carpenter improved his season line to .272/.375/.375/.750, snagging another All-Star Game invitation along the way. Still, that OPS is down over 120 points from 2013 and 75 points lower than his 2012 debut.

With five contract years to go with Carpenter, the Cardinals have to hope the 2013 version of the third baseman is what they will see the rest of the way. After all, he received the long-term extension that Freese did not.

While these kinds of long-term deals relatively early in careers have proven to work out well for the club in the past, nothing is certain. Jaime Garcia and Allen Craig serve as recent reminders of the potential pitfalls.

For Carpenter, only time will tell.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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39 Responses to “TCN Blog 2014 Top Story #16: Carpenter’s Cardinals Commitment”

  1. crdswmn says:

    So signing Ty Wigginton taught Mozeliak nothing. He signs Wigginton The Sequel, Mark Reynolds.

    Barf.

    • Bw52 says:

      So who would you suggest? I am not thrilled with Reynolds but I understand the signing.1B-3B RH bat.If I had my way Jon Jay would have been traded.His value is overinflated right now and somebody could be snookered to take Jay.

      • crdswmn says:

        I would suggest that if guys like Kyle Blanks, John Mayberry Jr (who the Mets signed this morning) or even Rickie Weeks, could not be obtained because of money or playing time offered, then no one would be my fall back position. A cheaper Xavier Scruggs or some other internal option who can hit LHP (Grichuk, Piscotty, et al) would be a better choice. Reynolds for 2M is no better than Scruggs at league minimum.

        • Bw52 says:

          Reynolds has had some success in the majors and is a potential HR threat.I figured Cards would go for Blanks first before Reynolds. Maybe Blanks injury history scared Mo off.Scruggs apparently failed to impress (small sample size ).Weeks can`t stay healthy either so Mo and MM must have decided Reynolds was the one to sign.He can play 1B-3B…………I think he`s pretty good 1B.So-so 3B.

          • Brian Walton says:

            It could be as simple as Reynolds being the first of the guys they talked with to commit. GMs have to be working a lot of threads at the same time to avoid missing out. Generally speaking, Mozeliak has done a pretty good job getting his work done early.

            I don’t have a problem with the signing – for a bench guy. If he is over/misused, that could become a real problem.

            My very basic article is here.

            • crdswmn says:

              Maybe getting work done early is not always a good thing. What was the rush?

              I think there is a better than 50/50 chance that Reynolds will be misused. We have Mike Matheny for a manager after all, the one who kept running Allen Craig’s corpse out game after game, the one who insisted on using Grichuk over Taveras ad nauseum. Reynolds is a vet, and if he has any small sample size success, we could see much more of Reynolds than we can stomach.

              I don’t see the upside here, especially since Reynolds doesn’t have a LHP advantage. Last season he hit worse against LHP than he did against RHP, and he is no great shakes with the glove either.

              I am on record as not being thrilled with this signing.

              • Brian Walton says:

                It is a generally-held view that the one thing the Cardinals needed this winter – hitting – was the commodity in the shortest supply in the marketplace. The primary reason to move fast is to get the guys you want before someone else does. The main risk in doing so is overpaying. In the case of Reynolds, $2 MM seems reasonable to me, whether now or later.

                In my opinion, splits are far less important than the answer to this question. Can he hit left-handed pitching substantially better than Adams? If so, he has a role.

                Even better if he hits RHP equally well as LHP so the opposition gains no advantage by changing pitchers from one handed to the other late in the game.

                P.S. His poor results against LHP last season were in just 98 at-bats. I think you understand the value of using a larger amount of data to draw firm conclusions. His career numbers are likely more representative, especially since he is still just 31, younger than Molina, Peralta and Holliday.

                • crdswmn says:

                  I do recognize that career numbers are more representative, but his career numbers against LHP are not significantly better than his career numbers against RHP—in fact, they are basically the same. He does not have a marked split in favor of LHP at all. Which as a PHer would be fine, but as a platoon partner with Adams, I don’t see the advantage. Furthermore, Adams’ numbers against LHP are based on small sample sizes as well, 200 PAs, and since most offensive numbers don’t normalize before 500 PAs I don’t get the panic over Adams’ splits to begin with. If Reynolds were a lefty masher I could see the advantage here, but he isn’t. Reynolds has 3X more HRs against RHP than LHP.

                  As I said, I don’t see him as being significantly better than Scruggs or other internal options. Yes, 2M is not a crippling amount, but it is 1.5M more than Scruggs would cost and Scruggs is less likely to be misused by Matheny.

                  It may work out, I hope it does, but I don’t like it.

                  • Brian Walton says:

                    The only important advantage Scruggs offers is that he is relatively unknown to most. People who are upset about Reynolds’ strikeouts should not look at Scruggs’ history. For example, in 2013, while repeating Double-A, he whiffed just a tick under 40 percent. Even though it seems like Reynolds has been around forever, Scruggs is less than four years younger. I am not ragging on the latter, as he has worked very hard to make the majors after seven years of trying, but I also do not expect him to enjoy a long MLB career.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Oh I don’t see Scruggs as anything special, but for the role Reynolds is supposed to play, I don’t see him as a worse option, and he is certainly cheaper. Like I said, I think the panic over Adams’ numbers against LHP is premature anyway. He isn’t going to get any better at it by sitting on the bench against LHP.

                      We have Reynolds so it’s all a moot point anyway. If he turns out to be a bust, I can tell everyone I told you so. ;). If not, it wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong.

  2. Bw52 says:

    Brian what`s the story on Tyler Waldron the RHP Cards tooks in AAA Rule5?

  3. blingboy says:

    Was just talking to my dad about Reynolds. He says you should never look for a platoon partner for your first baseman. If you think you need one, what you need is a new first baseman.

  4. Brian Walton says:

    Not that anyone expected otherwise, but the Cards have made the signing official.

    Those of you on Twitter likely read about 100 tweets announcing this, all echoing the team’s own feed, which already has more followers than all the re-tweeters put together. Lotsa extra noise adding no value. I think I need a twitter filter or something.

  5. JumboShrimp says:

    While I hated the Wigginton signing from the onset, I like signing Reynolds. Reynolds is 4 or 5 years younger, whereas Wigginton was on a downhill slide before joining the Cards. Reynolds is young enough, he might still be able to field some balls at 3B. If so, he can give Carpenter some off-days against LHPs, not just Adams. Reynolds also has a higher career OPS than did Wigginton.

    Admittedly, Reynolds is horrific in terms of striking out. That is why he only costs $2MM. He is strong, but has big holes in his swing. The Cards can send Reynolds out there against $155MM Jon Lester and hope he hits one out, while also striking out three times.

  6. blingboy says:

    Last year Holliday was out homered by our shortstop. This year, he may well be out homered by both middle infielders and a bench guy. While he kept his OBP up, his BA and SLG slipped badly. This raises the possibility that we could soon need a middle of the order 3-4 hitter. Matt is not going anywhere, nor should he, so that guy would have to come from somewhere besides left field. Where might that be?

    • Brian Walton says:

      Good question. I look at it as a two or three-year issue, exacerbated by the losses of Craig and Taveras. It is a question I have asked myself as I have been working on the top 40 prospect list extensively over the last month. I don’t see a Holliday replacement in the system now, so it may again have to come from the outside. Could Heyward grow into it? Can Adams improve? They may need someone else, too, obviously even more so if Heyward walks away after the season. All the biggest returning bats, Holliday, Molina and Peralta, are on the wrong side of 30.

      • blingboy says:

        Yes, my thinking on the matter is exactly the same. Craig and Taveras were the top two candidates to assume the middle of order great hitter/big bopper/run producer role. That is a loss that is hard to work around. My thinking about Heyward is that the Cards now have the chance to see what he brings. He may prove to be a keeper, but not in that role. Let’s face it, he strikes out too much to be an everyday fixture in the heart of the order, and has never been a great hitter. Same for Grichuk and Skruggs. Age/wear probably rule Yadi out and Peralta is just not a reliable producer despite the homers, and he is aging as well, as you say.

        The disturbing implication of the Heyward signing is what it suggests the Cards have decided about Adams. A platoon in the role is possible, but not ideal. The only in house platoon candidate I see is Piscotty, an unknown. Perhaps the Reynolds signing is an indication the the Cards see him as a year away? Start working him in later this year, a RF/1B platoon next year?

        Lots of moving parts there. A lot has to go right. The cleaner answer is to find a right fielder or a first baseman who fits the offensive profile. A middle of the order big stud in other words. Easier said than done of course. But we signed Holliday. We also found Beltran and Berkman. The Reynolds signing seems like it makes most sense if it is a time buying move while Mo looks for the solution.

  7. blingboy says:

    It is too bad the Reynolds signing destroyed the euphoria crdswmn was experiencing after DD’s departure.

    Maybe they will announce that Bourjos is the cener fielder. crdswmn would like that.

    I agree that Mad Mike’s useage of Reynolds is not likely to satisfy anyone. MM might decide he doesn’t like him, in which case he will sit at the end of the bench next to the dessicated remains of Ryan Jackson. Otherwise, we will all be sick to death of his rally killing Ks by June. It is entirely possible that if Reynolds really stinks, Mo will have to offload him somehow.

    Of course, he may turn out to be pretty good and used appropriatly. I will start off in his corner and wish him success.

  8. JumboShrimp says:

    Who are the 5 bench players? Cruz. Bourjos. Grichuk. Kozma or Ty Kelly or Greg Garcia or Anna. Reynolds.

    Reynolds takes Descalso’s roster spot. Reynolds is more expensive than Descalso, so money was not the reason we parted company with Dirty Dan.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Is anyone confused as to why Descalso is a former Cardinal?

      • blingboy says:

        It is not as straightforward as one might think.

        DD was mediocre at many positions while Bourjos is good at one. Which is preferable in a bench player?

        But DD’s offense sucked, you say? Well. yes it did, but he out hit Bourjos, his OBP was significantly higher and he struck out at a much lower rate. They are both about the same age and pay level. Yet Boujos is here while DD is not.

        The inescapable conclusion is that Mo somehow thinks Mike will find more ways to get Peter, an habitual .300 OBP guy, into the lineup, and that it wil be a good thing if he does. This while, at the same time, seemingly making a strong effort to improve the offensive contribution of the infield UT slot by replacing a known quantity with several unknown candidates.

        There is nothing straightforward about that to me.

        • crdswmn says:

          I can’t begin to count the number of times you have attempted to bait me into a Peter Bourjos argument. 😉

          To save you some typing time, it ain’t gonna happen. I don’t have any desire or inclination to debate the close-minded on this blog or any other forum. I have better things to do.

        • Brian Walton says:

          C’mon, crdswmn. I am not sure where you are coming from. Both Descalso and Bourjos have appeared parts of five years in the bigs. One has a career OBP of .304. The other’s is .313. That is not significant. One has a plus glove. The other does not. I guarantee Bourjos could be traded for value while Mo couldn’t find a taker for Descalso. It will be interesting to see if Descalso can even get a major league deal on the open market. As long as Jay is starting in center, I can see why keeping a better defender in Bourjos around makes sense.

      • blingboy says:

        I sense that BW and crdswmn are not as enthusiastic in their support of my position as I had hoped.

        Nevertheless, I will expand on the idea by suggesting that Bourjos is on the roster for the same kind of reason that Reynolds is. In both cases the organization has decided that the starter is not the complete player that they had hoped. Both of these guys are a band aid, patching the aspect of the game in which the starter has proven deficient. ( Poor Daniel was not a band aid).

        But one must ask if cluttering up the roster with band aids to prop up deficient starters is a sustainable modus operandi. I mean, in the era of expansive pitching staffs there are a limited number of bench slots. So far, we have a back up catcher who can’t hit much, a .300 OBP guy who can’t hit but can run and defend center field and another .300 OBP guy who might be able to hit lefties better than Adams and can play first base. My guess is we will add yet another .300 OBP guy who is a pretty good outfield defenderand strikes out 30% of the time and a utility infielder without significant ML experience.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I am pretty sure Mark Reynolds is a bigger threat to give the team a big hit off the bench than anyone in recent years.

          In 128 career pinch-hitting appearances, Descalso has no home runs and 11 RBI as part of a .184/.250/.254/.504 line. He struck out 25.4 percent of the time. Reynolds would not have to do much of anything to improve on those results considerably.

          Regarding the starters, it would be peachy-keen if the Cards could get better regulars than Jay and Adams at their positions. In the real world, it is not so easy.

          • blingboy says:

            With 46 pinch hit PAs is his 8 ML seasons we have no idea what Reynolds might do in the role.

            In the interest of finding common ground, perhaps we can agree that Reynolds is the biggest RH threat off the bench since Joey Bombs. 🙂

            By the way, it should be made clear that I truly hope both Peter amd Mark have successful seasons individually and contribute to a successful Cardinals season. I would happily eat crow.

            I also want to make clear that it is totally unfair for BW to be able to edit.

        • Bw52 says:

          Bling I like Bourjos.If I had my way Jay would be traded while is value is somewhat overinflated.Kozma would be gone and Cruz also.I think there is a chance Mo still brings in a vet low cost catcher in January to compete with Cruz and Easley.Kozma can be replaced by Greg Garcia or Dean Anna and Ty Kelly can be a switching option at 3B-2B.Just keeping a guy for his glove (Kozma) on the INF is a luxury Cards can`t afford IMO.If Cards keep Cruz and Kozma the whole bench will be RH batters.Kozma has no options left per Brian so he makes team or gets exposed to waivers (Correct? Brian? ).I would think a LH batter on the bench would be needed.

          • Brian Walton says:

            On the IF question, as weak as his bat is, Kozma is the only proven MLB player in the lot. Kelly has no SS experience. That leaves Garcia and Anna as possible replacements. Hardly overwhelming. Nothing will happen among this group until late in camp, I predict. If Kozma would be exposed to waivers, he would be claimed. I am almost sure of it. If the Cards don’t see him making the roster, I believe he will be traded instead.

            • crdswmn says:

              Contrary to what Bling and others who turn their nose up at elite glove guys think, they have value to many teams. How do you suppose Brendan Ryan has never had trouble finding a home? Teams want guys like that, and they have way more value than the Daniel Descalso’s of the world. Kozma has an above average glove and that is something many teams are going to want. He will find a home for sure, either through a trade or off waivers, if the Cardinals don’t want him. Descalso is going to have a tough time, though the fact that he has all 3 of his option years left may help him. The Dbacks might take him because TLR is there and he has always liked those scrappy no talent guys. He doesn’t have much value otherwise, or Mozeliak would have been able to find a taker for him in trade.

              I wouldn’t mind at all keeping Kozma as back up shortstop. We know what we have in him.

          • blingboy says:

            Has anyone seen Bw and crdswmn in the same room?

            I don’t think we need to worry about Jay getting traded. Our only .300 hitter last year and an habitually high OBP. Jay also hit lefties quite well when he got the chance last year, so I would expect him to get more chances this year. I think MM is liking the idea of moving him to left and putting Bourjos in CF as a defensive move. Although that backfired a time or two when the opponant came back and there we were without Holliday in the lineup. His streakiness is maddening though.

            I had been thinking that Kozma was doomed since the Cards clearly liked DD better and DD got canned. But I now think that Reynolds presence could be a blessing for Pete. It could be that DD was perceived a better fill in at the infield corners than Pete. Now with Reynolds that could be less of an issue. It seems to be between Kozma, Garcia and Anna, and the Cards, or at least MM, don’t seem to like Garcia. The acquisition of Anna and Kelly could be explained by looking at the middle infield depth chart. There is nobody but Garcia who could be considered ML ready in any sense. None of the other 29 organizations thought so on Rule 5 draft day at least.

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