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Cardinals sign Matt Carpenter to six-year, $52 million extension

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(USA Today)

Year after year the St. Louis Cardinals are able to stay relevant and contend for division and world championships for two simple reasons. First, they scout talent very well and are able to identify the players who best fit their philosophy and needs. Second, they develop and mold said talent into contributing major leaguers better than any other organization.

Their success in those two critical departments is fueled by general manager John Mozeliak, and it allows them to prepare for and absorb major losses on their roster. For example, they never missed a beat after Albert Pujols' signed with the Los Angeles Angels following their 2011 World Series championship, because there's always a next man up waiting for an opportunity. In that case, Allen Craig was ready to step in and provide All-Star numbers at first base. But another player who exemplifies their philosophy and the success they've enjoyed with it is infielder Matt Carpenter.

At 27, Carpenter finally received an opportunity as an every day player for St. Louis in 2013. Needless to say, he flourished, hitting .318 with a league best 199 hits, 126 runs scored and 55 doubles. The next man up had announced his arrival once again, and on Saturday the Cardinals rewarded Carpenter for his breakout season by signing him to a six-year, $52 million extension.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was the first to report the deal was complete. Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal provides the full breakdown.

The deal covers the final four years of Carpenter's arbitration eligibility and his first two years of free agency. The Cardinals could have gone year to year with Carpenter, but instead opted for cost certainly as Carpenter's salary will be locked in over the course of the deal. By the same token, Carpenter could have held off to see how much his value rises in 2014, but it's difficult to pass up the long-term security his new deal affords him. Not just from a financial perspective, either, he wants to be a part of the Cardinals for the long haul, and this contract will make that happen.

"For a baseball junkie like myself, I can't think of a better place to play than St. Louis," Carpenter said. "It's an honor to put on this jersey, and I don't take it lightly."

The Cardinals value Carpenter long-term for several reasons. At the top of that list might just be his versatility. He's a true jack-of-all-trades in the field. In fact, after spending the majority of the 2013 season playing second base, he's moving to third base in 2014 to accommodate the arrival of prospect Kolten Wong and free agent veteran Mark Ellis.

Carpenter also logged time at first base last season and can play both corner outfield positions without batting an eye. That type of versatility is difficult to find, especially from a player who is locked into the lineup on a daily basis. It gives Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny a lot of flexibility when pursuing new talent or filling out the lineup card, and that in turn makes Carpenter a valuable asset. The Cardinals recognize and have rewarded him as such.

It should also be noted his real world versatility translates over to the fantasy baseball world. You won't get a lot of power (11 homers in 2013) or speed (three steals), but he'll fill up the other counting categories with a strong batting average. If you have a draft upcoming, Carpenter is a good player to target in rounds five and six.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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