St. Louis Cardinals: Which Players Are Living Up to Their Contracts?

Josh KipnisCorrespondent IIJune 5, 2012

St. Louis Cardinals: Which Players Are Living Up to Their Contracts?

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    The St. Louis Cardinals have the ninth-highest average salary in MLB, but are their players worth all that money? General manager John Mozeliak decided that $240 million over 10 years was too much for Albert Pujols, so how should he evaluate the players on his current roster?

    Are they overvalued? Undervalued?

    Let's take a look. 

Overvalued

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    Manager Mike Matheny's hands have been tied in his very first season. The St. Louis Cardinals have been plagued with injuries, and it only seems a matter of time before the killing of the first born. Two of St. Louis' best players last season, pitcher Chris Carpenter and outfielder/first baseman Lance Berkman, are currently on the disabled list.

    Chris Carpenter has been the biggest disappointment for the Cardinals this season. Carpenter was set to be the team's ace, but nerve irritation in the pitcher's right shoulder forced Matheny to scratch Carpenter's scheduled Opening Day start.

    Carpenter has yet to throw a pitch in 2012, which is even more devastating after he signed a two-year, $21 million extension at the end of last year.

    I'll take $8.5 million to spit seeds and chew gum everyday.

    Lance Berkman is another high-profile player that has fallen in St. Louis. After performing better than even he could have expected last season, Berkman signed another one-year deal with the Cards, making $4 million more in 2012.

    But just like Carpenter, the "Puma" is making more while playing less this season.

    He is expected to return from his surgically repaired knee around the All-Star break, but with his health catching up to him, Mozeliak will have a tough call to make on the 35-year old slugger at the end of the year. 

Undervalued

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    When Albert Pujols packed his things for Anaheim, third baseman David Freese quickly became the fan favorite in St. Louis. But would you believe the MVP of both the World Series and NLCS last year is making $28,000 more than the league minimum this season?

    That's right.

    The guy with the second-most home runs and third-most RBI for the Cardinals makes only $508,000 a year. Something tells me he will be earning more one day.

    Equally deserving of a raise is rookie starting pitcher Lance Lynn. Lynn has been a stud in the Cardinals' rotation, winning an NL-leading eight games. And the kid earns just $2,000 more than the minimum! At $482,000, Lynn has done much more than what was asked of him in spring training. He leads the team in ERA (2.63), strikeouts (63), WHIP (1.13) and innings pitched (68.1).

    With numbers like that, Lynn is not just a top candidate for the rookie of the year award—it's time to throw his name in the Cy Young discussions. Lynn is looking to become the second rookie in history to win the Cy Young award. Fernando Valenzuela did it in 1981 with the Los Angeles Dodgers

Worth Every Penny

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    Carlos Beltran, Rafael Furcal and Yadier Molina all make more than the league average at their respective positions. Nevertheless, these guys are worth every penny.

    After almost 32 full innings of scoreless baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals' bats have cooled, but they are still among the best in the MLB. The Cards rank fourth in runs, second in batting average and fourth in slugging percentage.

    Beltran, Furcal and Molina are three of the reasons they have had that kind of success.

    Beltran signed a two-year, $26 million contract this past offseason, putting him almost $8 million above the league's average outfielder, because, well, he's an above-average outfielder. Beltran ranks first in the NL in home runs (15), third in RBI (42) and ninth in slugging percentage (.553).

    I wonder what Mets fans wanted more this season: a no-hitter or Beltran's bat back in their lineup?

    Rafael Furcal ($6.5 million per year) makes $2.6 million more than his competition and his 2012 stats are proving exactly why. Already, the shortstop has 68 hits (a team high), putting him on pace to reach more than 200 by the end of the season, something he has never done in his 12 years of professional baseball.

    Finally, there is Yadier Molina, who extended his contract last March for five more seasons. The $75 million deal will allow him to wear the StL logo through 2017. As much as it is, this could be the best money Mozeliak has ever spent. There aren't many other catchers who can offer what Molina can.

    Molina is one of the best all-around catchers in MLB. He is a Gold Glover, a .300 hitter, and most importantly, a second manager on the field. As former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa once said about Molina, "The game has never seen a better catcher."