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Cardinals plan for future with Carpenter contract

The St. Louis Cardinals will get a couple more cheap years out of infielder Matt Carpenter under the contract extension he signed with the team Saturday.

But the value of the deal increases steeply on the back half of the six-year contract. The Redbirds are gambling that Carpenter will not only be a good player -- but an elite player -- as he reaches his 30s.

Carpenter will make $1 million in 2014, $3.5 mil. in 2015, $6.25 mil. in 2016, $9.75 mil in 2017 and $13.5 mil. in 2018. He could make $18.5 million on an option in 2019.

I was surprised the Cardinals committed so much money to Carpenter when he couldn't be a free agent for three more seasons. While they might have paid more in the short term, they wouldn't be committed to a long-term deal if Carpenter couldn't keep up the production he showed in his first two seasons in the big leagues. 

By the time Carpenter could have hit the open market he would have been 31 years old. And that might have prevented the team from being forced to give the versatile infielder a mega contract.

But that was a gamble St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak was willing to take to create the core of the next generation of the Cardinals. Buy the time Carpenter starts getting the big bucks, Matt Holliday's contract will have expired and the Redbirds will be looking for new leadership.

It says a lot about what the team thinks of Carpenter that it gave him a six-year deal while it was content to go year-to-year with the guy he replaced at third base, David Freese, at third base. It also says a lot that the contract dwarfs the deal the team gave to slugging outfielder and first baseman Allen Craig.

It's not easy to figure out who is going to be consistent and who is going to be a flash in the pan. But the Cardinals need to make the right choices on who to pay and how much because they can't keep all their young talent forever. And they need to be careful to keep everyone happy when young players are getting paid big money for the first time and comparing their paychecks.