Cardinals, Walden Agree to Contract Extension

Newly-acquired set-up man comes to terms for 2015 and 2016 seasons, avoiding arbitration. A 2017 club option is also included.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have agreed with recently-acquired right-handed reliever Jordan Walden on a two-year contract for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, thus avoiding salary arbitration. The new pact also includes a club option for the 2017 season.

Walden, 27, was acquired by the Cardinals on November 17 along with outfielder Jason Heyward in a trade with the Atlanta Braves. The 6-5, 250-pound Texas native struck out 62 batters in 50.0 innings pitched this past season and he had a 2.88 ERA to go along with three saves.

Walden, who has appeared in 50 or more games in three of the past four seasons, led the Braves with 20 Holds in 2014. His career mark is 12-13 with a 3.10 ERA and 38 saves in 231 games pitched, striking out 254 batters in 211.2 IP.

Walden led the Los Angeles Angels in saves with 32 in 2011 and was named an American League All-Star that same season when he finished 5th in the junior circuit in saves while also compiling a 2.98 ERA.

Brian Walton’s take

With four years, 43 days service time, 2015 would have been Walden’s second year of his three-year arbitration eligibility. This deal extends St. Louis’ opportunity to control his services an additional year, his first free agent year, if they so choose.

According to industry reports, the two-year contract is worth $6.6 million. Walden received a $350,000 signing bonus, followed by annual salaries of $2.5 million and $3.5 million. The team option for 2017 is an additional $5.25 million, with a $250,000 buyout. If the option is exercised, Walden will receive $11.6 million over three years. He made $1.49 million with Atlanta last season.

This deal makes sense for both parties. The Cardinals needed a new eighth-inning reliever to replace Pat Neshek and they have their man in Walden. Walden is seven years younger than Neshek, who recently came to terms with the Astros on a two-year contract for $12.5 million.

With a 97 mph fastball, Walden adds another power arm to complement closer Trevor Rosenthal, who can touch 100. Walden also throws a ground ball-inducing slider and a swing-and-miss changeup.

Other arbitration-eligible Cardinals who have yet to agree on 2015 salaries are Lance Lynn, Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos and Tony Cruz. Among that group, Lynn is by far the most likely to secure a multi-year offer from the team.

Other Cardinals news

Minor league free agent and former Memphis and briefly, St. Louis infielder Jermaine Curtis has signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds.

First baseman Curt Smith, who spent the 2014 season with Double-A Springfield, is returning to his 2013 club, the Lincoln Saltdogs of the independent American Association.

The two are the third and fourth of St. Louis’ 11 minor league free agents to find homes for 2015. Earlier, Audry Perez signed with Colorado and 2014 Memphis third baseman Scott Moore agreed to return to the Cardinals organization.

For more

To see the entire Cardinals system by level and position, along with every transaction all year long, plus all free agents and their status, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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