The St. Louis Cardinals announced early Saturday that they have signed outfielder José Martínez to a two-year contract extension which will keep in with the team through the 2020 season.
Financial terms of the new deal were not disclosed by the team, though Jon Heyman of the MLB Network reported it will pay Martinez a guaranteed $3.5 million.
“José has been a key contributor to our team since his acquisition in 2016, and we’re pleased to announce this new two-year deal,” said President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. “José has proven to be a key member of our roster and he is someone who brings high energy and passion for our team and its fans.”
Martínez, 30, led the Cardinals in batting (.305) and hits (163) in 2018, finishing seventh among National League batting leaders. The right-handed hitting outfielder also finished second on the team in RBIs, 42 of which came with two out.
Finding a position on the field for him became a challenge however. Then-manager Mike Matheny tried converting Martinez to first base to clear space in an already crowded outfielder with the big-league arrival of rookies Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill. Seven errors at first base and a foot injury to struggling veteran Dexter Fowler led to an end to that experiment.
The Cardinals since completed a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks to bring All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis, which led to further speculation that Martinez would be dealt. The new contract doesn’t preclude such a trade from being made, but securing Martinez does provide a measure of security should Fowler struggle as he did in 2018.
Mozeliak also said that the team had opportunities to sell its negotiating rights with Martinez to teams overseas, presumably in Japan, but declined such offers.
Either way, his playing time figures to see a reduction from the 152 games he played last season.
Martínez, the son of the late former Major Leaguer Carlos Martínez, played in 887 games in the minors before making his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2016. The Venezuela native owns a .408 career batting mark (20-for-49) as a pinch-hitter.