Cardinals contract talks with Carpenter a look at the future

Posted by Scott Wuerz on March 6, 2014 

It's obviously a huge positive that the St. Louis Cardinals have so many talented and young players.

But the downside is that the club is going to have to take a lot of risks in the coming seasons with the hope that it gambles right on which players to lock up to long-term deals and which ones it decides to let move on down the road.

The word, according to numerous reports, is that the Redbirds are on the verge of signing Matt Carpenter, who will play third base in 2014 after being a second baseman in 2013 and primarily a first baseman in 2012, to a long extension.

Carpenter has been marvelous since his first full season. He's hit .306 with a .381 on-base percentage. And when you start breaking Stan Musial's club records for lefty hitters, you know you're living right.

But Carpenter, despite having only two years under his belt, is 28 years old. So I find some of the numbers that are being tossed around to be quite breathtaking. Word is that the Cardinals would pay him approximately $55 million over six seasons. Those numbers will set a precedent for younger players. If Oscar Taveras pans out, how much will the Birds have to pay to keep him for the bulk of his career? Will the Cardinals be forced to pay up early like they did with Carp or will they risk upsetting him by making him go though arbitration every year before he hits the open market?

Carpenter isn't even eligible for arbitration until after next season and couldn't be a free agent until 2018. It's a tremendous gift for a player of his experience level to give him such security. Carpenter could easily have been a guy like David Freese who, because he was a late bloomer, had to go year-to-year well past his 30 birthday.

Assuming the contract is back-loaded, as most are, Carpenter could take up a big chunk of the St. Louis payroll when the Cardinals have to make some serious decisions about long-term contracts for guys like Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller and Taveras.

Like David Ortiz said last year during the World Series: You almost have to feel sorry for the Cardinals because they have so many good, young players that it's going to be nearly impossible to keep them all.

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