A Harrison Bader extension is unlikely for St. Louis Cardinals – at least for now, and a lot of it has to do with how cheap he’s signed through 2024.
It has already been revealed that a Tyler O’Neill extension is unlikely for the St. Louis Cardinals, considering that he is signed cheap until 2025. But as a player that the franchise intends to build around, talks surrounding an extension are likely to begin well before he becomes a free agent.
What about the remainder of the outfield, specifically Harrison Bader?
Bader, 27, is coming off the best season of his career. He won his first Gold Glove Award and hit a career-best .267/.324/.460 with 16 home runs and 50 RBI. It’s exactly what the Cardinals had hoped for Bader entering spring training and while multiple stints on the Injured List halted his season, he provided optimism that he can be the long-term answer in center field.
But like O’Neill, an extension for Bader – at least right now – is unlikely for the same reasons. He is signed cheap for multiple seasons and the money saved on his contract is what allowed the Cardinals to add big contracts and also what gives them flexibility to add to other parts of the roster, specifically the bullpen, bench depth and perhaps another starting pitcher.
It’s also smart to be in a wait-and-see mode with Bader. After all, while he has always been a very good defender in the outfield, he has struggled with consistency at the plate. He slashed an underwhelming .205/.314/.366 in 2019 and followed it up with a .226/.336/.443 slashline in 2020 before breaking out at the plate in 2021.
The arrow is certainly pointing up for Bader and if he repeats those numbers in 2022, or even improves upon them, then the Cardinals will feel very confident that he’s the answer in center field for the next five or more seasons. But it’s smart to wait on extension talks, which is what they intend to do, while using the money saved to build a roster they feel is capable of winning a World Series in 2022 and beyond.