The St. Louis Cardinals have apparently reached a deal to sign ace starting pitcher Carlos Martinez to a five-year contract extension that will likely keep him wearing the Birds on the Bat at least until he’s 30 years old.
Although the reported $51-million deal would be the largest commitment for a pitcher in his first year of arbitration eligibility, it’s no-brainer that the Redbirds needed to keep their brightest young star in the fold on a long-term basis.
Pundits and fans often question contract extensions as to whether a certain player justifies the investment. This shouldn’t be one of those cases. St. Louis general manager, John Mozeliak, would have been a fool if he passed up on this chance to ink Martinez to an extension.
Since Martinez became a full-time starter in 2015, Martinez is 30-16 with a 3.02 earned run average and has struck out 358 batters in 375 innings of work. He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past two years, which is an awfully valuable commodity. But he’s also a popular fan-favorite who attracts people to Busch Stadium and sells merchandise.
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Once an immature and raw talent, Martinez had an epiphany after his friend Oscar Taveras wasted his talent and lost his life in a terribly unfortunate drunken driving crash. Since then, the young hurler has dedicated himself to not making the same sort of mistake.
Because of the potential for injury, no contract for a major league starting pitcher is completely safe. But gambling $51 million on a young hurler with a proven track record for being healthy and a commitment to improving on an annual basis seems like a pretty safe bet when an exceedingly mediocre starting pitcher like Mike Leake got $80 million for five years on the free agent market.
If the Cardinals passed on Martinez and let him walk away, they couldn’t hope to sign a pitcher who is half as talented for that sort of money once he reached the free agent market.
Leake is a fourth or fifth starter while Martinez works at the top of the rotation. The Cardinals have shown that they don’t have an appetite to shop in the ace isle of the free agent market, refusing to up their bid for David Price when the Boston Red Sox agreed to pay him more than four times what Martinez is guaranteed.
Martinez would have reached free agency in 2020 had the Redbirds not inked him to the extension, which means the team will get two additional years of control under the guarantee. But it reportedly carries a couple of extensions that could keep Martinez onboard until he’s 32 in 2023.
Hopefully he’ll be the next Adam Wainwright. Then this deal will be an unqualified steal in a couple of years.