Cards avoid arbitration with 5 players; can't reach deal with Edman

Helsley, Carlson among players to agree on terms for '24 season

January 11th, 2024

ST. LOUIS -- One year after and the Cardinals engaged in a somewhat contentious arbitration case ultimately won by the team, the parties avoided a repeat scenario by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.8 million on Thursday, sources told

-- who, like Helsley, was forced to battle injuries much of the 2023 season -- also avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $2.35 million, a source confirmed.

The Cardinals also announced arbitration-avoiding deals with relievers , and . The team was unable to come to an agreement with utility man by Thursday’s arbitration deadline. The two sides must exchange contract proposals by 7 p.m. CT. An arbitration hearing is possible for the Cardinals and Edman.

A Gold Glove winner in 2021 and a utility Gold Glove finalist in each of the past two seasons, Edman is up for a significant raise over the $4.2 million he earned following his fifth MLB season in 2023. He proved invaluable to the Cardinals last year, splitting time between shortstop, center field and second base and performing at an elite level defensively. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak and manager Oliver Marmol have said that they project Edman -- who underwent an arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist in October -- as the club’s Opening Day center fielder in '24.

Partly because of the wrist injury that cost him three weeks and bothered him down the stretch, Edman hit just .248 with a .705 OPS last season. He had 13 home runs and 47 RBIs, recording game-winning hits on consecutive nights on Aug. 29 and 30 against the Padres. In 596 games with the Cardinals, Edman has hit .266 with a .726 OPS, 53 home runs, 222 RBIs and 106 stolen bases.

Cot’s Baseball Contracts projected that Helsley would make $4 million for 2024 and Carlson would get $2.1 million. The projection for Edman is $7.1 million.

Helsley, 29, missed two and a half months due to a right forearm strain last season, but he still racked up 14 saves and a 2.45 ERA in 33 appearances. The owner of one of MLB’s most electric fastballs, Helsley fanned 52 batters in 36 2/3 innings for the Cardinals, who had a 71-91 record in 2023 largely because of their pitching troubles, despite Helsley’s steadiness.

The closer enjoyed the finest season of his five-year MLB career in 2022, when he had a 9-1 record with 19 saves and a 1.25 ERA in a career-high 54 games. That season, he struck out 94 batters in 64 2/3 innings, earning a first-time All-Star nod and a second-team All-MLB selection.

Helsley hoped to parlay that career year into a massive raise before the 2023 season, but he and the Cardinals were unable to agree on contract terms. The club won the arbitration hearing on that occasion, signing Helsley to a $2.15 million deal.

When highly touted rookie Jordan Walker made the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster and Tyler O’Neill was moved from left to center field to begin the 2023 season, Carlson was pushed out of a starting spot and moved into a reserve role.

Carlson largely struggled with his sporadic playing time, and he suffered a major blow on May 14, when he was felled by a left ankle sprain. The injury occurred just as Carlson laced a single to right field, then stumbled while leaving the batter’s box. That injury would bother Carlson throughout the year, and he underwent season-ending surgery on the ankle in September.

A first-round pick in 2016, Carlson is still trying to get back to the levels he reached in 2021, when he played in 149 games, hit 18 homers and drove in 65 runs. He slumped from the left side of the plate in '22 and '23, which caused his OPS to plummet from .780 in '21 to .695 in '22 and .651 in '23.

Marmol said recently that he sees Carlson as the team’s fourth outfielder in 2024. Carlson’s abilities as a strong defender in center field give the team some insurance behind Edman.

Kittredge, 33, was an American League All-Star in 2021 with the Rays, but he missed much of the past two seasons following Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He appeared in 17 games in 2022, then played in just 14 regular-season games and one playoff contest last season with the Rays. The Cardinals acquired Kittredge on Jan. 5, in a trade that sent outfielder Richie Palacios to Tampa Bay.