Cheap Seats

Inking Stephen Piscotty to an extension helps St. Louis Cardinals reload on the fly

When the news broke that the St. Louis Cardinals signed right fielder Stephen Piscotty to a six-year contract extension, my initial reaction was “why?”

After all, Piscotty is about a half a decade away from being eligible for free agency. So, what’s the rush?

But, when it was revealed that he’ll get about $33.5 million over the next six seasons, the question quickly turned into “why not?”

Yes, that’s a lot of money for you and me. But, by major league standards, $5 million bucks or so a year is mediocre player money. To put it in perspective, it’s less than one-sixth of the total value that Jason Heyward took to play the same position for the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals got Piscotty AND former Cubs centerfielder Dexter Fowler for $75 million less than Heyward’s ridiculous payday.

My guess is the contract extension must have been Piscotty’s idea. I can’t imagine that St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak would guess he would be so fortunate as to have one of his team’s best young talents commit to the team until he’s 32 years old for the going rate for a utility infielder, fourth outfielder or relief pitcher.

Before the numbers came out, I thought it was odd that the Redbirds rushed to extend Piscotty with fellow outfielder Randal Grichuk, starting pitcher Michael Wacha and reliever Trevor Rosenthal so much closer to free agency. But, after the deal was inked, Mozeliak would be wise to go to any of those players – or all of them – and offer the exact same deal. If any of them take it, great.

On Tuesday starting pitcher Lance Lynn, who seems to be rushing headlong toward free agency and a likely parting of ways with the only franchise he’s ever played with, said he wants to remain a Cardinal for life and is “open to anything” as far as extension goes.

On paper, the Birds seem set in the rotation for 2018 with Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, Michael Wacha and rehabbing top prospect Alex Reyes under control. But if Lynn, who has been very productive and durable before requiring Tommy John surgery last season, is willing to take a very team-friendly deal, how can St. Louis pass on it?

After all, say he’d take four years for $40 million, wouldn’t he make a nice trade piece if he should turn out to be surplus? Leake, who hasn’t recorded half of Lynn’s success, makes twice that much money

With Piscotty, Martinez and second baseman Kolten Wong under control at team-favorable teams and Fowler, team leader Yadier Molina and hurler Mike Leake are under control at reasonable prices the Birds have their complimentary players in place and can use that cost certainty to try to land a key player or two through trade or free agency to round out the roster in 2018 and 2019.

Heyward said when he chose Chicago over St. Louis that he thought the Cardinals were too old to compete over the long haul. Suddenly St. Louis has players who are 27 or less in left and right field, shortstop, second base and in Martinez, Reyes and Wacha on the pitcher’s mound. Plus, they have a wave of promising youngsters knocking on the door of the major leagues including Patrick Wisdom, Paul DeJong and Mags Sierra.

While we’re two games into the 2017 season, I can’t help but excitedly look ahead to 2018 and beyond.