Bellinger, Chapman deals bode well for Cardinals and free agent starters

Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, two clients of Scott Boras, are still available as free agents. The Cardinals can ink them to contracts similar to those of two other Boras clients.

San Diego Padres v St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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And then there were three.

What was once a quintumvirate is now simply a triumvirate. After Matt Chapman's signing overnight Saturday, the "Boras Five," Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, and JD Martinez, is down to 3. Blake Snell, a two-time Cy Young winner, Jordan Montgomery, the doll of the 2023 postseason, and JD Martinez, a wily veteran with a great bat, are the last big-name free agents available who are tied to super-agent Scott Boras.

Both Matt Chapman and Cody Bellinger received long-term deals with opt-outs after the first and second seasons. Though Bellinger's contract is richer, 3 years and $80 million compared to 3 years and $54 million, the two deals are structured in nearly identical ways. These contracts give the players the freedom to test the free agent market once again next year should they see success this year, or the contracts allow them to get paid a decent salary despite the potential for underperformance or injury.

Next year's free agency period should have more money flowing due to TV and broadcast situations being resolved, so it may behoove both Matt Chapman and Cody Bellinger to enter the market again assuming they have years mirroring their career averages.

The St. Louis Cardinals have the chance to make very similar and affordable deals with one of Boras's remaining clients: Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery. These contracts may have some risk baked in for the team, but they are relatively cheap--or at least cheaper than preseason projections--and the team will still have the opportunity to sign free agents next year should the player opt-out.

Pitchers are usually looking for more guaranteed years due to the fact that one injury can derail their career, so it will take some convincing on the part of John Mozeliak to get Snell and Monty to take these contracts. Both lefties will likely want a contract without opt-outs and with a higher average annual value, and deservedly so.

Additionally, Blake Snell has a qualifying offer attached to his name. This means that whoever signs the reigning NL Cy Young winner must forfeit a competitive draft pick in the 2024 draft. Montgomery was not given a qualifying offer, so he doesn't have the compensatory pick attached to him.

Jordan Montgomery, 31, is coming off a career year. He pitched 32 games with a 10-11 record, a 3.20 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 1.193 WHIP, and a 138 ERA+. While he was very good for the Cardinals in 21 games, he was even better for the Texas Rangers after the trade deadline. His playoff performances only increased his allure. In 37.2 innings (6 starts, 8 appearances), the southpaw struck out 24 batters, had an ERA of 2.63, and the Rangers were winners in 4 of his 6 starts.

Blake Snell is fresh off of his second Cy Young award, and he is seeking a long-term deal. Only Gaylor Perry has won the prestigious award in both leagues, so Snell is in elite company. Snell's greatest con would be his walk rate, thus leading to low innings totals for the former Tampa Bay Ray and San Diego Padre. He had a 2.25 ERA and a 1.189 WHIP paired with 234 strikeouts in 180 innings in 2023.

This is the second time in his career that he has pitched 180 innings, and he won the Cy Young award the last time he did so in 2018. Blake Snell won't likely won't reach that mark again given his pitching history, but he would immediately create one of the best one-two punches for a rotation in baseball when paired with Sonny Gray.

Scott Boras's clients have fallen short of preseason contract predictions and expectations thus far, but Snell and Montgomery could still achieve the heights that were once reported for them. Montgomery will be 31 for all of 2024, and he has likely reached his peak. While he would still be relatively young next year, he may want to capitalize this offseason and sign a lengthy deal in the 5-7 year range.

Snell's career is littered with volatility. He just so happens to be entering the open market after one of his best seasons. There is a chance he won't pitch well next year; therefore, he, too, should capitalize on this opportunity and lock himself in with a team for 5 years. Opt-outs could be beneficial for both players, as it grants them the autonomy that players seek in their careers.

The recent contracts given out to Scott Boras's clients Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman should reopen discussions the Cardinals may have had with pitchers Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery. The signing of one of these two would likely push Steven Matz to the bullpen, but it would be worthwhile to bring in bonafide top-end starting pitchers. Fans should expect a lucrative contract with plenty of opt-outs on the players' ends.

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