The Cardinals have a way of consistently producing topflight talent from their farm system, using both marquee prospects and relative unknowns to build a franchise that seems incapable of failure.
Is it some form of the black arts? Alchemy? Divinity?
No. Probably not. They're just good at developing players, and Matt Carpenter is a perfect example of their ability to do so. He wasn't on many top prospect lists before erupting onto the Major League scene last season, but that certainly won't keep St. Louis from trying to secure him for the long haul. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, the Cardinals are discussing a long-term extension with their serendipitous new third baseman.
He's "new" to third base only at the major league level. Throughout most of his quiet minor league career, Carpenter played third base, so the transition shouldn't be as problematic as might be for others.
In fact, his minor league experience at third makes his 2013 season -- in which he played second base almost exclusively -- even more impressive.
That flexibility, along with his penchant for getting on base, could lead to a contract extension in St. Louis. Carpenter, 28, will become arbitration-eligible after the coming season, and he's likely to earn a significant raise through the process. He earned just $504,000 last season despite finishing fourth in NL MVP balloting. He isn't likely to make much more than that in 2014, but if he can come close to duplicating his success from 2013, he'll likely be due for a big payday next winter.
Carpenter missed out on Super-Two status by about 100 days, so he'll only have three years of arbitration eligibility. The Cardinals could look into buying out those three seasons and attempt to add on a year or two of his free agent-eligible seasons as well. He's relatively old for a player who only recently burst onto the scene, so he probably won't be getting an extension of more than five or six years, but St. Louis is looking into the matter, and since it's the Cardinals Carpenter is dealing with, he might be subject to some St. Louisian Jedi Mind Tricks that result in a wildly team-friendly deal. Maybe not, but Cards' general manager John Mozeliak has proven he is something of a roster whisperer.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that, if the deal is completed, it will be for six years at somewhere between $50 million and $55 million. If the Cardinals are able to sign Carpenter to such a deal, they will have bought out his arbitration seasons and three years of free agency at less than $10 million per year through Carpenter's age-33 season.