Cardinals Rumors: Contract extension predictions for 2 key players

Tim Britton of the Athletic gave extension projections for Paul Goldschmidt and Lars Nootbaar.

Sep 11, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (46) and
Sep 11, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (46) and / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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Lars Nootbaar
Projection: Seven years, $68 million

Lars Nootbaar still has one year of pre-arbitration and three years of arbitration remaining. He will reach arbitration next year. His four years of team control complicate the deal. It will have to be longer than some fans may be comfortable with, and Britton emphasizes that with a seven-year deal.

A few months back, I proposed an eight-year extension worth $69 million for Nootbaar. When looking at extensions for Corbin Carroll (8 years, $111 million) of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Michael Harris II (8 years, $72 million) of the Atlanta Braves, we can garner a better idea of a Nootbaar extension. Lars is neither of these players, and he is significantly older than both outfielders, but their contracts are good starting points.

Nootbaar has a career slash line of .246/.351/.429 for an OPS+ of 116. That's a good corner outfielder stat line, especially when paired with his plus defense and the potential to play in center field when necessary. His contract prediction is valued at a little less than $10 million per year, but that makes up for lower salaries in pre-arbitration and arbitration.

Historically, arbitration players have to have awards attached to their names such as Rookie of the Year votes, Silver Sluggers, or Gold Gloves to see huge escalators on their arbitration salaries. Due to Nootbaar's lack of national recognition thus far, he likely wouldn't have exceeded $10 million in any of his arbitration years barring fantastic seasons between 2024 and 2026.

The bulk of his salary will likely come during what would have been his free-agent years. A seven-year deal buys out the remainder of his pre-arb and arb years in addition to his first three free-agency years. This contract worries me slightly due to Nootbaar's concerning health history; he has yet to play in 120 games in two full seasons. He has the talent that is worthy of an extension of this size, but his health makes this concerning.

I would wait a year to give this contract to Lars Nootbaar. If he can prove that he can play in at least 75% of the games in a season, the Cardinals should absolutely discuss a contract extension with him next season. If Nootbaar continues to experience injuries, however nutty they may be, then perhaps saving money and riding out his arbitration years is the best bet for the organization.