Cards Set Contracts for 20 Pre-Arb Players

The St. Louis Cardinals have "agreed to terms" on 2008 contracts with 18 young players and renewed the contracts of pitchers Adam Wainwright and Anthony Reyes for 2008.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced they have agreed to terms on 2008 contracts with 18 players on their 40-man roster and renewed the contracts of pitchers Adam Wainwright and Anthony Reyes for the 2008 campaign. This announcement puts all of the team's players under contract for 2008.

Agreeing to terms were pitchers Blake Hawksworth, Kelvin Jimenez, Tyler Johnson, Josh Kinney, Kyle McClellan, Jason Motte, Mike Parisi, Brad Thompson and Mark Worrell, infielders Brian Barden, Chris Duncan, Jarrett Hoffpauir and Brendan Ryan and outfielders Brian Barton, Cody Haerther, Ryan Ludwick, Joe Mather and Skip Schumaker.

"Agreeing to terms" is a generous characterization, as the reality is that these players have no choice if they want to play professional baseball this season. None of the 18 have yet achieved the necessary (just short of) three years of MLB service time to qualify for arbitration, hence their salary amounts are set by the club, within MLB guidelines.

According to MLB's Uniform Player Contract, clubs may renew contracts of unsigned players between March 2 and 11 this year.

The Cardinals implemented a new approach this year, with all these players' amounts offered defined by a set scale based on service and performance. Only Wainwright and Reyes declined – a symbolic gesture only, since they all had to accept the team's offer, anyway.

Wainwright made a reported $410,000 last season, and will receive $448,000 this season, according to the Post-Dispatch. Reyes' full-season major league salary would have been $392,500 in 2007. While his 2008 amount has not yet been reported, a modest increase was likely provided, though technically, the club could have offered as little as 80% of each player's salary and performance bonuses from last year, as long as the minimum MLB salary is met. The Major League minimum salary last season was $380,000 and is $390,000 in 2008.

It is best not for clubs to be too cheap, however, as it can come back to bite them.

In Wainwright's case, with 2.027 years of MLB service time, he will become arbitration-eligible this coming off-season. As a result, he will see a significant raise for the 2009-2011 seasons, leading to free-agent eligibility at six years of service.

Faced with a similar situation with catcher Yadier Molina last winter, the club proposed and the player accepted a four-year deal with a fifth year option to cover the arbitration-eligible years as well as the first year of potential free agency. With Wainwright looking as a long-term stalwart in the rotation, the Cardinals could attempt a parallel approach with their big righty this fall.

Reyes, who spent part of the 2007 season in the minor leagues, trails Wainwright by just under a year of MLB service and therefore, will reach arbitration eligibility at least one year later, too. Reyes' current service time is one year, 89 days.

Among the other front-line players whose contracts were renewed, pitcher Brad Thompson should become arbitration-eligible after the season, with two years, 110 days of service time now. Left fielder Chris Duncan may also make the cut next winter. Players in the top 17% of those with between two and three years of service time qualify for arbitration as "Super Twos". Duncan is currently at 1.144.

For minor leaguers on the 40-man roster for at least the second year or with one day of MLB service time, the minimum is $62,500, even if they spend the entire season in the minors.

The minimum for the first-time 40-man roster additions is half that, $31,250. This will include McClellan, Motte, Parisi, Worrell, Hoffpauir and Mather if they fail to make the big club as expected.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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