"This is where I want to be."
Matt Carpenter was succinct on Wednesday afternoon during a press conference where the St. Louis Cardinals announced a new two year extension for the veteran infielder with a vesting option for a third season.
The former 13th round draft pick was entering his final guaranteed season in St. Louis, so the team tore up his 2020 option and added a couple.
President of Baseball Operations, John Mozeliak, talked about Carpenter's love for being a Cardinal and his work in the community for triggering talks for an extension this past week
In reality, this is Mozeliak's style of keeping players around and knowing where the next deck of cards should land. He rarely waits until a contract is completely up.
Whether it's young players or veterans, he always has his eye on the ball with setting the course for the next 3-5 years.
When it comes to Matt Carpenter, this is the perfect move. Arguably the only one.
The universally underrated 33-year-old will never get enough credit from parts of Cardinal Nation or the national media for his production. A guy who can crank out 25 home runs, produce a .360 on-base percentage, and draw 90 walks while playing multiple positions is a rare breed in this league. The lifetime .845 OPS and 130 OPS+ are way above average, and shouldn't decrease due to Carpenter's wise adage used at the plate.
With Carpenter, it's hard work personified.
Once upon a time, he was an overweight young baseball player who wasn't putting in the work. You can easily find multiple stories on the net talking about a fast-food chomping player slacking off. Somewhere along the line, Carpenter changed his entire life, cut weight, leaned into the sport he loved, and now will enjoy potentially 12 years in Major League Baseball.
Carpenter's abilities lie at the intersection of hard work and versatile talent.
It's not like it was easy. A year ago, this extension isn't being talked about, especially a few weeks down the road, as Carpenter was marred in a slump that spanned weeks instead of days.
After an amazing second half to the season, he stayed in line with his career marks. With the arrival of Paul Goldschmidt, Carpenter will play a third position for an entire season. After utility work years ago, then second base, followed by third base and first base, he is back at the hot corner this year.
For all intents and purposes, Carpenter is a soldier for the Cardinals.
Point him in a direction and he is your guy. That's not just dedication; it's persistence and loyalty. There's no ego trip with this guy. You want to keep a guy like Carpenter around for a long time.
Hopefully, with this contract, Carpenter stays a Cardinal for life.
At the end of his guaranteed contract, he will turn 36 the following month in 2021. I'd wager big cash on him getting that option season, which would see him turn 37 the following November. By that time, Nolan Gorman should be ready. The young third base prospect is blasting baseballs all over Peoria at the moment, so 2-3 years is a fine gap to prepare for ungodly breaking stuff and exploding sliders, as a fictional catcher once described it.
According to Mark Saxon of The Athletic, Carpenter will receive $39 million combined for the 2020-21 seasons, and $18.5 million if he reaches 1,100 plate appearances over the first two seasons. That's essentially $19.5, $19.5, and $18.5 million payouts. Being that Carpenter has reached a 3.0 WAR at the very least the past five seasons, the money matches up just right, if not a little on the cheap side.
Within a matter of years, the designated hitter, for better or worse, will be in the National League, which could extend Carpenter's career in St. Louis and bring Gorman up sooner. That's a conversation for another day.
Right now, appreciate the career of Matt Carpenter.
He came into the league a literal million to one shot, but has succeeded and then some. He has a World Series ring, and could reach 200 home runs by the end of his playing days. Last season, he was in MVP talks for weeks. No one will call him a team-carrying stud, but too many will fail to recognize how valuable he is.
He's always put the team first, so it's about time the Cardinals do it for him.