Cardinals Lock in Remaining 2015 Contracts

All St. Louis Cardinals with less than three years service time now have 2015 contracts. When will they become arbitration-eligible in the future and who might next receive a multi-year offer and why?

The St. Louis Cardinals quietly announced on Monday they have agreed to terms on one-year contracts for 2015 with the final group of 21 players on their 40-man roster. The club now has all 39 of its 40-man roster players under contract for the upcoming season.

Maness

The recently-signed group includes pitchers Sam Freeman, Marco Gonzales, Nick Greenwood, Tyler Lyons, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Sam Tuivailala and Michael Wacha.

Position players are catchers Ed Easley, Michael Ohlman and Cody Stanley, infielders Matt Adams, Greg Garcia, Ty Kelly, Pete Kozma, Xavier Scruggs and Kolten Wong along with outfielders Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham.

All these 21 players have one very important thing in common - less than three years of Major League service time - and as such, they are not yet eligible for arbitration. Historically, the club says that in every case, the player agreed to terms, instead of the club renewing their contract.

In reality, the players have no choice. This process is a mere formality if the player wants to continue to play professional baseball. In setting these players’ salaries, a club is bound by good faith at the ceiling and the minimum MLB salary at the floor.

Unlike players with six years of major league service, free agency is not yet available to this group. Arbitration is not yet an option, either, until players accrue almost three years of service. Players eligible for arbitration this past winter included Lance Lynn, Jordan Walden, Jon Jay, Tony Cruz and Peter Bourjos.

Though the club never announces contract amounts, the 21 newly-resigned players will likely make under $600,000 if in the Major Leagues this season. The floor is the MLB minimum salary for 2015, $507,500. That is up from $500,000 last season due to a cost of living increase built into the current collective bargaining agreement.

Including Cuban émigré Aledmys Diaz, who signed a four-year major league deal last March and is therefore on the 40-man and already under contract and Dean Anna, signed as a free agent during the off-season, 23 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 23 Cardinals are ordered by their current service time, which is measured in years.days, where 172 days is a full season. That is listed in the third column. Just to the right is when they would likely reach arbitration eligibility if they could remain in the majors the entire time between now and then, an unrealistic scenario for most. When 2014 salaries are known, they are included.

  2014 pay ($K) Service Soonest Arb
Trevor Rosenthal $521 2.058 after 2015
Matt Adams $516 2.033 after 2015
Seth Maness $509 1.154 after 2015 S2
Kevin Siegrist $505 1.116 after 2016
Pete Kozma $518 1.108 after 2016
Carlos Martinez $505 1.073 after 2016
Sam Freeman   1.066 after 2016
Michael Wacha $510 1.062 after 2016
Kolten Wong $500 1.045 after 2016
Tyler Lyons   0.166 after 2016 S2
Nick Greenwood   0.104 after 2017
Randal Grichuk   0.061 after 2017
Greg Garcia   0.043 after 2017
Marco Gonzales   0.041 after 2017
Dean Anna $500 0.026 after 2017
Xavier Scruggs   0.025 after 2017
Tommy Pham   0.021 after 2017
Sam Tuivailala   0.021 after 2017
Aledmys Diaz   0.000 after 2017
Ed Easley   0.000 after 2017
Ty Kelly   0.000 after 2017
Michael Ohlman   0.000 after 2017
Cody Stanley   0.000 after 2017

Note that Rosenthal, Adams and Maness are definitely on track to become eligible for arbitration following this season. That means 2015 will most likely be the last season their contracts will settled so easily, with substantial raises coming each year starting in 2016.

Heading into his second full-time season as the closer, with greater consistency, Rosenthal has the opportunity to shine both on the field and in the salary department in the coming off-season.

Maness is one of the club’s most dependable right-handed relievers, but his position is the most replaceable. That will hold down the size of his raise.

Adams remains the highest-potential emerging power source on the roster and is positioned for continued improvement in 2015. The big man will not come cheaply next year, especially if he demonstrates that he can better solve left-handed pitching.

Next multi-year deals

Just as Jay, Walden and Lynn were offered and accepted multi-year contracts rather than go to arbitration this year and at least one more year in the future, all three of the aforementioned eligibles could see similar offers extended by the club this coming off-season.

On paper, Rosenthal and Adams would both be prime candidates to be extended beyond their three arbitration years. I see Adams as being far more likely to accept such a deal, perhaps covering one or at most two years of his free agent period – a total contract of four or five years duration, including options.

There are two reasons I expect Rosenthal to not give up any of his free agent years, however. First is his agent, Scott Boras. Second is that I suspect that in his heart, Rosenthal would still prefer to start in the future. A top-line starter receives more money than a top closer, so he may prefer not to have his salary locked down any longer than necessary.

As in Jay’s case, a multi-year offer to Maness would almost certainly not cover any of his free agent years since set up men are more replaceable. When Maness eventually reaches the open market after the 2018 season, he will likely fetch a greater offer from another club.

Lyons

Possible exceptions

You may have noticed that Maness will actually be slightly short of three full years of service at the end of the season. The way that he will qualify for arbitration anyway is via a capability called “Super Two,” denoted as “S2” in the table above.

That is a special rule that enables the top 22% of MLB’s two-year service time players the same arbitration eligibility as the three-to-six year players. As such, Maness would essentially receive four years of arbitration-driven salary prior to free agency (at six years of service) instead of the normal three.

The service time required for super two eligibility varies each year based on where the 22% line falls in the player population, but is usually around 2.140.

As noted in the table above, Tyler Lyons could also qualify in two years. With full years in the majors in both 2015 and 2016, the lefty would be at 2.166. However, with his path to a regular job in St. Louis seemingly blocked, Lyons would need help through injury to several others to reach arbitration that quickly.

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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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