For the second day in a row, the St. Louis Cardinals summoned the media to Busch Stadium to announce that they have wrapped up one of their stars to a contract extension.
This time it was Stephen Piscotty, the third-year outfielder who emerged last season as a reliable middle-of-the-lineup hitter after the club lost the free-agent bidding for the man he replaced, Jason Heyward.
The deal keeps Piscotty in St. Louis for at least the next six years and includes a club option for a seventh in 2023. Financial terms were not released during the Monday press conference, but multiple reports indicate its total value is $33.5 million.
“I’ve heard of players signing these types of deals, and I think it was out of pure curiosity; I wanted to know if it was something that could happen,” said Piscotty, who initiated the negotiations. “I remember when the first offer was made and looking at it, it just felt fair, very fair.
“This was a pretty easy decision for me. It came down to the fact, one, I love this organization and two, this deal gives myself and my future family financial security.”
The deal came just 24 hours after the club announced a new three-year, $60-million extension for seven-time All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, who was among teammates to attend the press conference for Piscotty.
Piscotty became the eighth player the Cardinals have under their control through at least the 2020 season. He’s the third among those to have signed his contract before becoming eligible for arbitration, joining first baseman Matt Carpenter and second baseman Kolten Wong.
Piscotty entered the season on a $560,400 contract, but would have been arbitration-eligible following the 2018 season. He would have been a free agent in 2021.
Though initiated by Piscotty, the contract is consistent with the Cardinals’ strategy of sewing up long-term deals with players before they become arbitration-eligible.
The average annual value of the contracts provides the players security ahead of their peak market value, but protects the club’s budget against big arbitration awards.
“When you look at the climate of baseball right now and the free agent market, it’s not a place we’re going to have a lot of success in if we rely on it,” Cardinals General manager John Mozeliak said. “To be able to lock up our younger and talented players does mean a lot to our future ...
“When we have this type of talent come through and be able to do something long-term, it makes sense for us.”
The Cardinals have added $224 million in payroll over the last five months, including deals with Molina ($60 million, three years), reliever Brett Cecil ($30.5 million, four years), center fielder Dexter Fowler ($82.5 million, five years) and right-hander Carlos Martinez ($51 million, five years).
I've heard of players signing these types of deals and I think it was out of pure curiosity I wanted to know if it was something that could happen.
Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals outfielder
Piscotty, 26, was selected by the Cardinals as a first-round supplemental pick out of Stanford University in 2012.
He batted .273 with 22 home runs and 85 RBIs in 153 games last season. He ranked second in the National League by batting .363 with runners in scoring position and led the Cardinals with 37 two-out RBIs.
As a rookie in 2015, the right-handed hitter batted .305 with seven homers and 39 RBIs in 63 games. He was 1-for-3 with two walks and two strikeouts Sunday in the Cardinals’ 4-3 Opening Day victory over the Chicago Cubs.
“I think it’s been well noted that it’s one of his strongest attributes, how much capacity he has to grow and to learn,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “The talent is easy to see. The other intangibles you can just dream about how much better they are going to make him for the long haul.”
BND sports reporter David Wilhelm contributed information for this story.