Which outstanding 2024 Cardinals deserve an extension?

5 players in arbitration or pre-arbitration have shown themselves worthy of a contract extension soon. Who should get one?
St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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Extending Ryan Helsley now would be a huge win.

Ryan Helsley is the best closer in baseball right now. He is the league leader in saves, he has a 2.68 ERA, and he's on pace to eclipse 2.0 bWAR as a reliever this year. Those are huge stats for someone who will likely throw fewer than 80 innings in the regular season. Extending Ryan Helsley now is essential to the team's success both now and in the future.

Helsley has one more year of arbitration next year, so the Cardinals are running out of time to extend him. He agreed to a contract worth $3.8 million after going through the arduous arbitration process in the 2023 offseason. I would imagine that Helsley doesn't want to go through the bartering again this upcoming offseason. A contract extension will allow him to forego bargaining and disputations with the team.

Another benefit of a contract extension would be the Cardinals' ability to work on transitioning him back to being a starting pitcher in the future. Helsley has great value as a shut-down reliever in the back of the bullpen, but he would provide even more value as a bona fide starting pitcher, a role he once held as a prospect. If the Cardinals can stretch him out this offseason and slowly ramp up his stamina with a 4-year contract, they could find a mid-rotation starting pitcher in their now closer.

A 4-year deal for Helsley would likely land somewhere around $40 million like Jordan Hicks's contract this past offseason in free agency. Hicks signed for $44 million over 4 years, and he was a true free agent. Helsley's lone year of arbitration left will lower his price tag slightly. The Cardinals could choose to keep him as a reliever, but with guaranteed control, they could transition him back to a starter to squeeze more value out of the flamethrowing righty.