St. Louis Cardinals Contracts Done Until Fall

24 St. Louis Cardinals players with less than three years service time now have 2010 contracts. When will they become arbitration-eligible in the future and why?

The St. Louis Cardinals announced on Thursday they have set in place one-year contracts for 2010 with the remaining 24 of the 39 players on their 40-man roster, each of whom has less than three years major league experience. The club now has all of its players under contract for the upcoming season.

This announcement is a mere formality since in setting these players' salaries, the Cardinals are basically bound only by good faith and the minimum MLB salary, which remains at $400,000 for 2010. Because all 24 have less than three years of Major League service time, they are not yet eligible for arbitration.

Though technically the Cardinals and each of the players "agreed to terms" rather than the club unilaterally "renewing" their contracts, it is a distinction only relevant to the player and club. If the players want to play, they need a contract. The team decides what they are worth. They sign or go home.

The group includes 11 pitchers and 13 position players. They are listed below. Note that nine of them have yet to appear in a regular-season major league game and a number of them may not during this coming season.

Pitchers MLB service Position players MLB service
Mitchell Boggs 0.125 Bryan Anderson 0.000
Jaime Garcia 1.147 Matt Pagnozzi 0.012
Blake Hawksworth 0.108 David Freese 0.028
Ben Jukich 0.000 Tyler Greene 0.068
Josh Kinney 2.122 Mark Hamilton 0.000
Kyle McClellan 2.000 Brendan Ryan 2.082
Jason Motte 1.027 Allen Craig 0.000
Tyler Norrick 0.000 Jon Jay 0.000
Adam Ottavino 0.000 Daryl Jones 0.000
Francisco Samuel 0.000 Joe Mather  0.098
P.J. Walters 0.038 Colby Rasmus 1.000
Shane Robinson 0.014
Nick Stavinoha 0.115

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

The 24 players are re-ordered below 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. The final column is my projection as to when the player might actually achieve the necessary service time, recognizing that any of it, especially after 2011, is a crapshoot.

Players MLB service Soonest arb Forecast arb
Josh Kinney 2.122 after 2010 after 2010
Brendan Ryan 2.082 after 2010 after 2010
Kyle McClellan 2.000 after 2010 after 2010
Jaime Garcia 1.147 after 2010 after 2011
Jason Motte 1.027 after 2011 after 2011
Colby Rasmus 1.000 after 2011 after 2011
Mitchell Boggs 0.125 after 2012 after 2012
Nick Stavinoha 0.115 after 2012 TBD
Blake Hawksworth 0.108 after 2012 after 2012
Joe Mather  0.098 after 2012 after 2013
Tyler Greene 0.068 after 2012 after 2013
P.J. Walters 0.038 after 2012 TBD
David Freese 0.028 after 2012 after 2012
Shane Robinson 0.014 after 2012 TBD
Matt Pagnozzi 0.012 after 2012 TBD
Ben Jukich 0.000 after 2012 TBD
Tyler Norrick 0.000 after 2012 TBD
Adam Ottavino 0.000 after 2012 after 2014
Francisco Samuel 0.000 after 2012 after 2014
Bryan Anderson 0.000 after 2012 TBD
Mark Hamilton 0.000 after 2012 TBD
Allen Craig 0.000 after 2012 after 2013
Jon Jay 0.000 after 2012 after 2013
Daryl Jones 0.000 after 2012 after 2014

Both Brendan Ryan and Kyle McClellan are seemingly locks to become eligible for arbitration following this season. Each is aligned to play a prominent role for the 2010 Cardinals.

Josh Kinney just missed being arbitration-eligible this year and it may have saved his job. As-is, the Cardinals are able to continue to pay him near league minimum while giving the right-hander another year to try to regain his 2006 consistency following a pair of elbow surgeries. Otherwise, he would be a major candidate to be released or non-tendered this coming winter, a fate similar to that of Brad Thompson this off-season.

Looking at left-hander Jaime Garcia's service time, to become arbitration eligible this winter, he would need to spend pretty much the entire season on the major league roster. If so, he would probably become eligible during the winter of 2010-2011 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. Could this be another factor in not rushing Garcia back from 2008 Tommy John surgery?

For those players noted with "TBD", I am not being rude, but it is not realistic to assume all 24 players will remain major leaguers long enough to gain nearly three years of service. The "TBD" players are the ones about whom I have the greatest concerns over their staying power. Be aware that players continue to accrue service time while on the major league disabled list.

For completeness, it should be remembered that Ryan Ludwick will also be arbitration-eligible for a final time this coming off-season before earning the right to test free agency following the 2011 campaign. Other arbitration-eligible players already under multi-year contracts covering at least this season and next include Skip Schumaker, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.

Bottom line, if the Cardinals were to manage their roster solely to minimize spending money, they would find a way for Garcia to spend part of this season back in Memphis. Either way, they are going to have to pay more for Ryan and McClellan next winter – perhaps considerably more if the two deliver on the field in 2010.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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