Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reviewing Carpenter's Contract Extension

The Cardinals locked up Carpenter (StL Sports Page)
The St. Louis Cardinals rewarded third baseman Matt Carpenter for his tremendous 2013 season with a backloaded six-year, $52 million extension that includes an 18.5 million dollar option for 2020, Carpenter's age 34 season.

Carpenter's contract comes off the heels of an MVP-caliber season in which he hit .318/.392/.481 and led the majors with 126 runs, 199 hits and 55 doubles, all while playing second base and batting leadoff for the NL Champion Cardinals. He was an All-Star for the first time, won his first Silver Slugger award and finished fourth in the MVP race behind Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt and teammate Yadier Molina.

It goes without saying that if he can be anything close to the seven win player he was a year ago, St. Louis is going to get a massive bargain, especially in the short-run. Like Mike Trout, Carpenter debuted in 2011, made the league minimum in both 2012 and 2013, and will make just $1 million in 2014. Carpenter's salary escalates every year after that, but he'll still get only $3.5 million in 2015, 6.25 million in 2016 and $9.75 million in 2017. He won't make eight figures until 2018, by which point he'll be 32.

And for those under the impression that Carpenter's breakout was the mere byproduct of an age 27 fluke season, remember that his .294/.365/.463 line in 2012 wasn't far off last year's rate stats, not to mention 26 percent better than average when adjusted for league and park. It's also worth noting that from 2012 to 2013 his walk rate remained exactly the same, his BABiP rose just seven points and his Iso actually decreased by six points.

His main improvement was cutting his strikeout rate by nearly one-third, which explains the uptick in his contact rate and batting average. He scratched out a few infield hits and smashed more line drives, which means he'll probably bat closer to .300 than .320, but there's nothing else in his batted ball or plate discipline data that suggests big-time regression is on the horizon (even though ZiPS is projecting him to bat .272/.351.,413 next year, which feels way too pessimistic).

So even if Carpenter never again reaches the lofty heights of his stellar 2013, he still figures to be pretty good. I think his numbers are going to look very similar to those of Dustin Pedroia (whose 2008 MVP campaign is almost indistinguishable from Carpenter's 2013) or Martin Prado. Translation: the Redbirds will get their money's worth.

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