This may seem crazy to extend a prospect before they have even made their major league debut, but in the case of a talent like Jordan Walker, this could save the Cardinals, at minimum, tens of millions of dollars.
Walker has vaulted himself into the top 10 prospects in all of baseball and is already number one is some minds. He has slashed .308/.392/.518 with 18 HR, 61 RBI, and 19 SB in AA Springfield this season. Walker was drafted as an extremely raw talent, but has shown elite bat to ball skills while having loads of untapped potential still. Walker looks like a future MVP in the making.
Many are penciling in Walker as the 2023 NL Rookie of the Year, and with the new incentives that the CBA has put in place, he would gain another year of service time if he finishes first or second. This means his free agency clock could be accelerated, making early extension talk vital. The club will want Walker to be in the ROY conversation, as that means he is developing into that player they think he’ll be, and the club will receive a draft pick.
There is precedent for players receiving extensions before playing in the majors, with the likes of Luis Robert, Evan White, and Eloy Jimenez receiving such deals in recent years. The largest of those was Robert, who inked a six-year, $50 million deal with two additional $20 million club options.
Getting Walker on a deal like this, rather than waiting it out, could save the Cardinals a fortune. Julio Rodriguez received a 12 year, $210 million deal in August, and could be end up being 18 years, $470 million if all options and incentives are exercised. There is no guarantee Walker would consider a Robert type deal, but at least having the conversation would be in St. Louis best interest.