What the Matt Carpenter Extension Gives the St. Louis Cardinals
The decision by the St. Louis Cardinals front office to grant an extension to Matt Carpenter was the next step by John Mozeliak to solidify the team’s core for the next few years.
The signing shows that the team sees Carpenter as a key part of the squad’s nucleus for years to come. He joins Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta, Yadier Molina and Allen Craig as the only Cardinals locked up through 2016 or later.
That’s good company—especially for a player many doubted could handle second base in 2013. How did that work out again?
During the press conference announcing the deal, Bill Dewitt Jr. made reference to the fact that he would like to see Carpenter finish his career as a Cardinal. The decision to buy out a lock year, all three arbitration years and his first two years of free-agent eligibility is a step in the right direction. It shows that the Cardinals don’t believe what Carpenter accomplished in 2013 is a fluke and that they think the young man from Texas is, in fact, the real deal.
There are plenty of other reasons that it made sense for the Cardinals to lock up Carpenter early.
Here are a few thoughts.
Long-Term Leadoff Batter
The Cardinals have had success getting a player to bat leadoff for a year before collapsing, and having someone in the slot long-term is something they’ve needed.
Both Jon Jay and Rafael Furcal did fantastic jobs in the short-term scheme of things, but they lacked consistency.
Matt Carpenter does not lack consistency.
His ability to go deep into at-bats and exercise patience at the plate puts him on base—a lot. In 2013, Carpenter led all MLB second basemen with a .392 on-base percentage. At his new position of third base, that OBP would have been behind only Miguel Cabrera.
A Complement to Power
Carpenter is not a power hitter. He can hit for power, but his real value is his ability to dig out extra-base hits. His 55 doubles led all of MLB in 2013.
A runner on second when the heart of the lineup comes to the plate is Carpenter’s specialty—and that translates into a lot of runs. In 2013, he led all of MLB in runs scored with 126. That’s 17 runs more than Mike Trout, who came in second.
He wasn’t just near the top of the helm, he was way on top.
Possibly the most valuable trait Carpenter brings to this team is his diversity. While he will begin the season as a third baseman, his native position, he’s easily shifted. Aside from being one of the game's best active second baseman in 2013, he’s also a capable outfielder and first baseman.
There are very few scenarios where, if someone was hurt, he couldn’t fill in.
Frankly, I’m convinced that if you handed him a set of catcher’s gear or even sent him to the mound, he’d go out and do a decent job. That’s more than what any team expects from a player.
The Cardinals saw the true value of Carpenter and acted quickly to give him a fair deal that he's truly earned. Excellent move.