As the St. Louis Cardinals face the final weekend of the National League Championship Series, and the baseball year as a whole rolls into its final go around shortly, the show still goes on, regardless of outcome. Sooner or later, the tone of the year quickly turns to the personnel part and the future becomes the present. Free agency, retirements, trades and rumors will rule the roost for the next three months, and the Cardinals will be far from on the outside looking in.
While the team has the rare pleasure of having the vast majority its entire core and active roster under team control for not only 2013, but 2014 as well, the business is safe to continue as is for the near future. But exactly how is the design of the team set up entering the winter? Here is the entire breakdown of the Cardinal roster, including what’s to come, what will cost what and how contract status works into the personnel decisions that could loom.
(Contract figures per Cots Contracts & Baseball Reference)
Guaranteed Contracts—$71.5M guaranteed in 2014
Adam Wainwright (32, $97.5M through 2018)
Matt Holliday (34, $51M through 2017 w/ $17M team option in 2018)
Yadier Molina (31, $44M through 2017, w/ $15M team option in 2018)
Allen Craig (30, $28.5M through 2017, w/ $13M team option in 2018)
Jaime Garcia (27, $17M through 2015, w/ $23.5M total in separate team options in ’16-’17)
Jason Motte (32, $7.5M through 2014)
Randy Choate (38, $6M through 2015)
The vast majority of the Cardinal veteran core is not only signed, but is contracted through the next four seasons at minimum. Wainwright, Holliday and Molina are likely on career carrying deals, while the team locked up young, quickly proven players such as Craig and Garcia early in their careers, and have control through their best years underway. Motte is the lone pending free agent on the 2014 team, and will have a show-and-prove year as he returns to the ninth inning from Tommy John surgery early in the season.
John Axford (31, Stage 2, $5M in 2013; Non-Tender Candidate)
David Freese (31, Stage 2, $3.15M in 2013)
Jon Jay (29, Stage 1, $524,000 in 2013)
Daniel Descalso (26, Stage 1, $511,000 in 2013)
Fernando Salas (29, Stage 1, $512,000 in 2013; Non-Tender Candidate)
While Craig and Motte are locked up, the remainder of the formerly young Cardinal cast is in the midst of their arbitration years. At maximum, Freese, Jay and Descalso are under team control through 2015, but there will be a few tough calls in this tier of the team, and none harder to predict than Freese, who is due for a raise into the $5M range, but had his worst year of his career. Axford’s case will be the most interesting case, as he is a high-ceiling talent, but will carry a difficult price tag for what is likely a seventh inning bridge pitcher to carry.
Lance Lynn (27, Stage 3)
Matt Carpenter (28, Stage 3; Buy-out Candidate)
Tony Cruz (27, Stage 3)
Shane Robinson (29, Stage 3)
Shelby Miller (23, Stage 2)
Michael Wacha (23, Stage 2)
Carlos Martinez (22, Stage 2)
Pete Kozma (26, Stage 2)
Trevor Rosenthal (24, Stage 2)
Kevin Siegrist (24, Stage 2)
Seth Maness (25, Stage 2)
Matt Adams (25, Stage 2)
Joe Kelly (26, Stage 2)
Keith Butler (25, Stage 2)
Sam Freeman (26, Stage 2)
Tyler Lyons (26, Stage 2)
John Gast (25, Stage 2)
Kolten Wong (22, Stage 2)
Adron Chambers (27, Stage 2)
The core of the Cardinal team is its youth, as the group that was heralded as the top organization in all of baseball before the season has seen many of its jewels hit the big leagues. Of the 19 players in this section, no less than 12 are virtual locks to be on the Opening Day roster, and none will come in at cost of more than $525,000. This is where the cost control of youth, performing youth at that, shows it’s most advantageous asset. And with only Lynn, Carpenter, Cruz and Robinson on pace to reach arbitration status over the next two years, unless the team decides to up the ante on an early long-term deal to buy out any of this group’s arbitration seasons, this will be a strong asset on the side of the team’s purchasing power, if needed.
Carlos Beltran ($13M)
Jake Westbrook ($8.75M, $9.5M team option will be declined)
Chris Carpenter ($10.5M, will likely retire)
Rafael Furcal ($7M)
Edward Mujica ($3.2M)
Rob Johnson ($750,000)
There are a few ifs and a few certainties here. The certainties start with Jake Westbrook, who’s 2014 option is all but certain to be declined. Furcal and Carpenter will not return as well, with retirement on the horizon for Carpenter and Furcal missing all of the season with Tommy John surgery, and the team having moved on from him before spring training commenced. Mujica is due for a raise, despite his late season struggles, and will likely price himself out of returning for the capacity he would be needed in.
Post-2014 Free Agent Candidates
Motte, Axford, Freese
Post 2015 Free Agent Candidates