COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals have spent the last few years surrounded by contract talks. They have provided extensions to key players, watched a superstar walk away, and have prevented others from following suit. Now general manager John Mozeliak can relax a bit and simply see his product develop on the field.
Contracts, long-term deals, and multi-million dollar contracts seem to be the talk all across baseball lately. It consistently brings up the question: What player currently on your roster would you sign to a long-term, big-dollar contract right now? Most fans can easily jump in with a name or two that with whom they would like to see their team announce a life-changing contract. Call it a first-world problem if you will, but the Cardinals just don't have that issue on their plate anymore.
They core players are already locked up
Ever since Albert Pujols rode west into the waiting arms of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mozeliak has gone to work to ensure that the core components of his team were in place. Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Jason Motte, Jaime Garcia and most recently Adam Wainwright have all agreed to terms on contracts that will keep them wearing the birds-on-the-bat for a significant part of their respective careers. Matt Holliday was already under a high-dollar, long-term contract. That gives a team a solid core to build around, to say the least.
It's not time yet
Looking beyond that, you find a strong amount of quality, cost-controlled players coming through the system. Players like Daniel Descalso, Matt Carpenter, Pete Kozma, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller have a few seasons before free agency becomes a concern for the team. Additionally, all of those players would need a few good seasons before the arbitration process would cause the team to worry about how much money they would be able to save by buying out some of those years.
The farm system promises players at or above the level of players currently in front of them on the depth chart. The next few seasons will see the arrival of Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, and Greg Garcia. As the team enters negotiations with current players, the talented crop of youngsters will ensure that they will not overpay for mediocre talent that can be easily replaced with another cost-controlled option.
Consistency might open talks
Admittedly, Jon Jay, Lance Lynn, and David Freese may be the players that the team will be looking at in the near future to decide if they are worth keeping on the roster. The youth coming through the system will force a decision of allowing them to leave through free agency and the club rebuilding the minor leagues and not hurt the competitive nature immediately. All three are becoming key components in the here-and-now of the franchise. All three could vault to star status that will make the team want to keep them around. However, a little inconsistency will lead the team to turn to a young, cost-controlled player in the future over a long-term deal for any of them.
All things considered, the Cardinals and their upper management staff can become a bit more reactive to developments on the field. They have been proactive enough that the team is in good shape, both now and in the future.
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