The St. Louis Cardinals locked in one of their key offensive players Wednesday, signing second baseman Kolten Wong to a five-year contract extension to avoid arbitration.
The Cardinals announced Tuesday that they had signed Wong to a five-year deal with an option for a sixth season.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was the first to report that the Cards and the 25-year-old native of Hawaii had worked out a new deal.
Wong topped 500 plate appearances for the first time in 2015 with 613 and produced to the tune of a .262 batting average, 11 home runs, 61 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
The former first-round pick faded a bit down the stretch, though, as he hit just .238 with two homers and 24 RBI in the second half of the season.
Wong admitted that the pressure he put on himself contributed somewhat to his struggles and that he intends to change that in 2016, via Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
I think I improved a lot last year. I wasn't as hard on myself last year, but compared to the way other people do it, I still was way too hard on myself.
This year, I'm coming in with a different mindset. My whole goal this year is not to let highs get too high and not to let my lows get too low and really control myself as a professional. A lot of things happen.
I've got to realize — I am realizing now — ... that slumps are going to happen.
Putting that bad habit in the past won't necessarily be easy for Wong, since he will be expected to raise his production level after outfielder Jason Heyward signed with the rival Chicago Cubs. Also, middle infielder Jedd Gyorko was brought in via a trade with the San Diego Padres, so Wong could get pushed for playing time if 2016 doesn't go well for him.
Wong is an extremely valuable commodity for the Cardinals, though, due to his combination of on-base ability, pop and speed. That versatility allows him to hit essentially anywhere in the order and gives manager Mike Matheny plenty of options.
The scrappy second baseman has the potential to be one of the best all-around players at his position in Major League Baseball, and a five-year commitment suggests that the Cardinals have bought into that notion.
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