Cards to keep Carpenter through 2011
Club locks in ace with five-year extension, option for 2012
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- No team in baseball will sign a better pitcher at this week's Winter Meetings than the Cardinals signed on Monday. St. Louis announced a contract extension with ace Chris Carpenter that will keep the right-hander around through at least 2011.
Carpenter had been under contract through 2007, with a club option for 2008. The new deal guarantees all of his performance incentives in 2007, exercises his option for 2008 and secures 2009, 2010 and 2011 as well. The deal is reportedly worth $65 million in guarantees, and could go to $77 million if the 2012 option kicks in.
"It's a nice feeling at any time when you have security in your job," Carpenter said. "Me and my family love it here. We've enjoyed the last three years, and we're looking forward to five more great years. It's a good feeling to know that you have people that believe in you that much to invest what they've invested in me to have me around."
The Cardinals aren't done dealing, of course. Securing Carpenter's services helps out in 2009, but it doesn't change the outlook one whit for '07. So general manager Walt Jocketty will continue to try to add at least one more starting pitcher before the Winter Meetings are done.
Still, in the meantime, locking up Carpenter is plenty good news.
"It's something we felt was very important to do," Jocketty said. "It's something we've talked about doing for some time. Once the season got over and things kind of settled down a little bit, I called Bob LaMonte, his agent. ... We got it done over the weekend. Great negotiations, very little problem at all. We're extremely happy."
Carpenter echoed that description, saying it took a grand total of three phone calls to get the job done. The club wanted to keep him around, and he wanted to stick around.
"I don't know how much [money] is enough," he said. "I'm comfortable here, my family is comfortable here, and I think we have an opportunity to win here. And when you get five years of security and the ability to stay somewhere where you have a chance to win ... all those things come into play for me. This is the place that I wanted to stay. This is the place that I wanted to be."
According to Jocketty, the Cardinals have offers out to a number of free agents, though no deals are imminent. The GM asserted that St. Louis will not offer more than three years to any free agent pitcher, likely knocking his team out of any shot at signing Barry Zito.
Jason Schmidt may remain a possibility, though, as are some of the Cards' own free agents, or possibly a trade. A rumor circulated Monday that St. Louis had discussed Yankees right-hander Carl Pavano, but Jocketty said he has had no conversations with New York.
Discussions loomed, meanwhile, with representatives for Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Mark Mulder.
"In the next day or so, that's something we're going to try and do, is talk with the agents of all of our free agent pitchers," Jocketty said.
He said that the Cardinals do have offers out to some position players, but that any offensive additions are low on the priority scale. St. Louis has at least a projected potential starter at all eight lineup spots for 2007.
But the Redbirds currently have only three pieces of their starting rotation locked up for 2007 -- Carpenter, Anthony Reyes and Kip Wells. A fourth spot may go to an in-house option, perhaps Adam Wainwright or even Brad Thompson, while the final piece will come from outside the organization.
"We've got a lot of different ways we can go with our pitching," Jocketty said. "Ideally we'd like to acquire two more starting pitchers, if we can keep everything together the way we have it set now. But it's conceivable that we don't do that. We could use Wainwright as a starter, or even Thompson. There's a lot of different ways we could go."
But however that goes, the front of the rotation is set. And it's a high-quality No. 1, to say the least. Carpenter, 31, went 15-8 with a 3.09 ERA for St. Louis in 2006, finishing third in the Cy Young balloting. He won the award in 2005 after posting 21 wins.
Over three years as a Cardinal, Carpenter is 51-18 with a 3.10 ERA, 13 complete games, seven shutouts and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 4:1. He's a two-time All-Star who is 4-1 with a 2.53 ERA in eight career postseason starts.
In a market that has gone on tilt for pitchers, Carpenter's signing actually may represent a relative bargain. Astros ace Roy Oswalt recently re-upped for five years and $73 million, while reports indicate that the left-handed Zito may weigh six-year offers before the winter is out.
If Carpenter left money on the table, however, he's certainly not complaining. It's the second time that he's moved quickly to re-sign with the Cardinals.
"It's nice to know that they believe in me this much and believe that much to keep me around for five more years," he said. "It's a great feeling, and we're obviously excited to be able to be a part of the Cardinals organization for the next five years."
Carpenter is now signed further into the future than any other Cardinal. Albert Pujols' seven-year deal runs through 2010 with an option for 2011, while Scott Rolen's eight-year contract ends after the 2010 season.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.