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?
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Waiting to extend Alec Burleson makes the most sense.

Alec Burleson has finally been able to put it all together this year. He was given a starting slot when Jordan Walker was demoted and while Dylan Carlson was out with an injury, and he's taken full advantage of it. Burly was a part of the stellar 2020 Cardinals' draft class that included Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, and Tink Hence. He was once overlooked out of that group, but he's starting to make a name for himself.

This is Alec's third season in the majors, but he's getting a full run for the first time in his career. The 25-year-old outfielder is slashing .282/.315/.467 for a 120 OPS+, and he's been the most consistent offensive player on the team outside of Willson Contreras and Masyn Winn. He's already hit 12 home runs, and his 14% strikeout rate ranks in the 90th percentile in baseball.

Burly is by no means a defensive stud, but he's much improved this year in the corner outfield after an offseason remake. He's been worth -5 Outs Above Average on the year, -2 Defensive Runs Saved and he has a 1.5 Ultimate Zone Rating. When he's hitting as well as he has and when he's paired with a stud center fielder like Michael Siani, these are defensive metrics you can live with. His arm strength actually grades out in the 72nd percentile.

Despite all of these positive signs that Burleson has shown this year, it doesn't make total sense to extend him just yet. He's in only his second year of pre-arbitration, so he still has 4 more years of team control remaining. Seeing one or two more seasons with output like this would give more credence to an extension for the lefty. It's been exciting to see Burleson come into his own this year, and I'm sure he will continue to produce at levels comparable to this, but an extension at this time feels premature.