Cardinals Lock in 23 Remaining 2011 Contracts

In a spring formality, 23 St. Louis Cardinals players with less than three years service time now have 2011 contracts. When will they become arbitration-eligible in the future and why?

The St. Louis Cardinals announced on Thursday they have agreed to terms on one-year contracts for 2011 with 23 players on their 40-man roster. The club now has all of its players under contract for the upcoming season.

The current group includes pitchers Bryan Augenstein, Mitchell Boggs, Maikel Cleto, Jaime Garcia, Blake King, David Kopp, Jason Motte, Adam Reifer, Fernando Salas, Francisco Samuel, Eduardo Sanchez and P.J. Walters, catchers Bryan Anderson and Tony Cruz, infielders Daniel Descalso, David Freese, Tyler Greene, Mark Hamilton and Pete Kozma and outfielders Adron Chambers, Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Colby Rasmus.

All 23 players have less than three years of Major League service time and as such, are not yet eligible for arbitration. spoke with general manager John Mozeliak, who said that in every case, the player agreed to terms, instead of the club renewing their contract.

This is a mere formality since if the player wants to play professional baseball, he has no choice but to accept the team's offer. In setting these players' salaries, a club is bound only by good faith at the high end and the minimum MLB salary at the floor. reports that Rasmus will be receiving $443,000 and Garcia $437,000 in 2011. If the others make the major league roster, they will earn at least the $414,500 minimum for 2011. That is up from $400,000 the past two seasons due to a cost of living increase built into the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Including first-round draft pick Zack Cox, who signed a four-year major league deal last August and is therefore on the 40-man and already under contract, 24 of the 40 players on the Cardinals roster have less than three years of MLB service.

Looking ahead, following is the status of these players in terms of future arbitration eligibility. That is when things will get interesting in terms of an opportunity to secure progressively larger salary increases in years three through five while ramping up to free agency at year six.

The 24 players are ordered by their current service time, which is measured in Years.Days, where 172 days is a full season. Next to that is when they would likely reach arbitration eligibility if they would remain in the majors the entire time between now and then, an unrealistic scenario for many.

Player   MLB Service   Soonest arb  
Jaime Garcia 2.047 after 2011
Jason Motte 2.027 after 2011
Colby Rasmus 2.000 after 2011
Mitchell Boggs 1.125 after 2012
David Freese 1.028 after 2012
Tyler Greene 0.163 after 2012
Jon Jay 0.134 after 2013
Fernando Salas 0.087 after 2013
Allen Craig 0.077 after 2013
P.J. Walters 0.073 after 2013
Bryan Anderson 0.060 after 2013
Bryan Augenstein 0.042 after 2013
Zack Cox 0.016 after 2013
Daniel Descalso 0.016 after 2013
Mark Hamilton 0.016 after 2013
Maikel Cleto 0.000 after 2013
Blake King 0.000 after 2013
David Kopp 0.000 after 2013
Adam Reifer 0.000 after 2013
Francisco Samuel 0.000 after 2013
Eduardo Sanchez 0.000 after 2013
Tony Cruz 0.000 after 2013
Pete Kozma 0.000 after 2013
Adron Chambers 0.000 after 2013

Note that Garcia, Motte and Rasmus are seemingly locks to become eligible for arbitration following this season, meaning substantial raises will be in order starting in 2012. While these won't be Albert Pujols-sized increases, they will be non-trivial.

Heading into his second full-time season as a starter, Garcia has the opportunity to shine both on the field and in the salary department the coming off-season. Motte is viewed as a potential future closer and if he progresses this year, will earn and surely seek a good sized raise. Rasmus remains the highest-potential position player on the roster with two solid seasons under his belt and is positioned to truly break out in 2011. He won't come cheaply next year.

They will join three other Cardinals who previously crossed that three-year service line and who should also be in line for salary increases this coming winter. They are listed below.

Player   MLB Service  
Ryan Theriot 4.118
Skip Schumaker 4.051
Kyle McClellan 3.000

After his trade to St. Louis, Theriot quickly came to terms with the Cardinals on a $3.3 million contract for 2011 after having taken the Cubs to an arbitration hearing the prior winter. He will be looking to put his career and his salary back on an upward trajectory, but needs to deliver on the field.

Schumaker previously signed a two-year deal that ends with the 2011 season. After an up-and-down time as a second baseman, this year is huge for Skip to either step up or perhaps see his role change in the future.

If McClellan wins the spring derby to replace Adam Wainwright in the rotation and thrives in the role, his 2011 salary of $1.375 million will be blown away next year. The Cardinals may regret not getting serious with McClellan about a multi-year deal this past winter.

Two other interesting players to note from the initial list are Tyler Greene and Jon Jay. Due to service time accrued previously, if Greene remains in the majors for all of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, he will almost certainly become eligible during the winter of 2012-2013 as a "super two".

That is a special rule that enables the top 17% of MLB's two-year service time players the same arbitration eligibility as all of the three-to-six year players. As such, Greene would essentially receive four years of arbitration-driven salary prior to free agency (at six years of service) instead of the normal three.

The exact line for super two eligibility varies each year, but is usually around 2.130 to 2.140. As noted above, Jay will be at 2.134 with two more full seasons of service, perhaps holding off his arbitration eligibility until the 2013-2014 off-season. In other words, Jay may lag a full year behind Greene despite their service time being just 29 days apart.

Of course, all this assumes the arbitration process is not changed during the upcoming labor negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement between players and owners. The current CBA expires in December.

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