St. Louis Cardinals: Who’s in the best position to get extended?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 09: Kolten Wong #16 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after hitting a two-RBI double against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in game five of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 09, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 09: Kolten Wong #16 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after hitting a two-RBI double against the Atlanta Braves during the first inning in game five of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 09, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

It seems every spring, the St. Louis Cardinals choose to hand out an extension to at least one player. In 2020, who has the best chance to get that extension?

The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot of players who are right in the middle of contracts or are right at the beginning or end of their careers on the 2020 roster. In the past three years, there have been extensions given out almost every spring training and it’s not a stretch to expect this spring to be any different.

Miles Mikolas, Matt Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong, and more have received extensions during spring in the past few years.

Those extensions may not look that great at the moment, but as far as timing goes for when to extend players, spring training seems like a good time to do so. There are a few players that fit the potential for an extension in this year’s spring training, who is in the best position?

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong’s current extension was signed back in spring training of 2016 when Wong was entering his fourth season in the league. The five-year/$25.5M deal (with a team option for 2021) has proven to be a discount for the Cardinals even with some of Wong’s inconsistencies. Using FanGraphs’ value estimator, Wong has been worth $79.5M (including a whopping $29.4M in 2019) over the past four years and has made just $14.25M over that time.

The Cardinals would be idiots to not pick up the team option on the reigning Gold Glove winner for 2021 but it also may be smart to keep the 29-year-old around for a bit longer. This winter, Wong expressed that he would welcome a contract extension in a post for the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

In that article, Wong said, “Being with the Cardinals my whole career – I would love for it to end that way,” and continued, “Or to extend my career longer with the Cardinals and see how far we can push it.”

Coming off of the most complete season of his career and with no high-end second base prospects coming up, the clear answer is to extend Wong to keep manning the right side of the infield. His defense and speed have shown no signs of leaving and his entire game is coming together finally, Wong wants to stay, the solution seems clear.

Wong won’t be as cheap, but he would be worth it.

Yadier Molina

This extension almost shouldn’t be on this list as most of us act like it’s already happened. According to all accounts, a Molina extension is likely to be expected this spring for at least another year. Keeping the Hall of Fame-bound catcher around isn’t the issue with this for most fans, it is about what role he will be playing.

In 2019, Molina showed that he may finally be breaking down some as he played in the second-fewest games in the past 12 years and was 15% below average offensively. The 37-year-old was still above replacement level with a 1.3 bWAR, but the end is now officially in sight. With Andrew Knizner ready to play, 2020 should be the final season that Molina is the everyday starter.

Resigning Matt Wieters serves as another good safety net for Molina, and I’d bet that Wieters plays in more games in 2020 than he did in 2019 while in the same role.

Resigning Molina for two years is fine for me, but there needs to be a serious conversation about his role during those final two years. Molina’s leadership cannot be quantified and he’d surely get a contract like Adam Wainwright received the last two seasons. One thing is for sure, Molina will never wear another jersey in the MLB.

Jack Flaherty

This extension is more wishful thinking than anything as the more time passes, the more it seems Jack Flaherty is going to make the Cardinals pony up every step of the way- as he should. Flaherty hasn’t pulled any punches with speaking out about any issue, especially when it comes to players making what they are worth.

More from St Louis Cardinals News

Flaherty is coming off of the best second half we have seen from a Cardinals’ pitcher in a long time and at the age of 24, he still has plenty of room left to grow. Not a free agent until 2024, the Cardinals should be knocking down Flaherty’s door to sign an extension to buy out the arbitration years and as many of the free-agent years as they can.

He will only get more expensive.

This is the only player on the Cardinals that I would say should get a blank check for as many years and as much money as he wants to keep him in this uniform. Believe me, He’s worth it.

The scariest thing for the Cardinals should be the worry that Flaherty doesn’t want to sign an extension and instead, like Garrett Cole and Mookie Betts, go to free agency. That is not a battle the Cardinals will win.

Dakota Hudson

Hudson is coming off of a good year where he started 32 games and threw 174.1 innings with a 3.35 ERA and 2.0 bWAR. Off the bat, that sounds great for a 24-year-old rookie. Unfortunately, when you dig a little deeper, Hudson had a monstrous 1.408 WHIP which was buoyed by a league-leading 86 walks. More than that, his 4.93 FIP was dangerously far from his ERA.

Looking at xFIP, Hudson’s FIP may have been a little high as his expected value was 4.55, but he still was, by almost every statistic, lucky in 2019.

So why should he be in line for an extension? The same reason why Paul DeJong was extended in 2018. He’s projectable. Following 2017, Paul DeJong had fewer than 500 career at-bats. Still, the team saw things they liked, so they got out ahead of things and signed DeJong to a super team-friendly extension that is actually similar (but cheaper) to the extension they signed Wong to.

They should do the same with Hudson.

While the underlying stats may not love Hudson, his 56.9% groundball rate led the entire league. Hudson is a sinkerballer and while he may have some adjustments to make, there is plenty there to take the risk of a team-friendly extension.

Next. Revive that Reds-blooded rivalry. dark

It will be interesting to see who gets the mystical spring training extension, I would be surprised if there isn’t at least one given out. Realistically, Molina is the only sure thing on this list to get an extension with the biggest fish being Flaherty. It’s a long spring, let’s see what happens.