JUPITER, Fla. -- Amid an offseason in which the Cardinals were repeatedly spurned by free agents despite their best attempts to sell St. Louis, general manager John Mozeliak welcomed the phone call he received about a month and a half ago. It was a call made on behalf of homegrown
JUPITER, Fla. -- Amid an offseason in which the Cardinals were repeatedly spurned by free agents despite their best attempts to sell St. Louis, general manager John Mozeliak welcomed the phone call he received about a month and a half ago. It was a call made on behalf of homegrown second baseman Kolten Wong, who asked his representatives to deliver an important message.
"I wanted to be a Cardinal," Wong wanted the organization to know. "I feel like this is something I needed to do."
Wong's desire to stay was met with the Cardinals' interest in adding him to their core, which they did on Wednesday with an announcement that the two sides had agreed to a five-year extension that also includes a club option. If the latter is exercised, it would buy out Wong's second year of free-agent eligibility.
Wong, who debuted with the Cardinals in 2013, was slated to become arbitration-eligible after this season. Instead, he landed financial security for himself and his new bride, Alissa, and affirmation that the Cardinals see him as a part of their long-term future.
"I fell in love with the city," Wong said. "I want to do everything I can to help this city out. I didn't want to see what I could go and do in free agency. I wanted to be a Cardinal. If there was any chance that I could do it, I told them, 'Let's try to get that done.'"
The Cardinals, who did not disclose financial terms of the agreement, were represented at Wednesday's news conference by Mozeliak, owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and manager Mike Matheny. They have made these extension announcements almost a rite of Spring Training.
Two years ago, the club signed Matt Carpenter to a six-year contract. A year before that, it was Allen Craig signing a five-year deal. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina also have signed their most recent contract extensions during the spring.
"When you think about all the things we deal with on the free-agent market and sometimes on the trade market, having someone who has a desire to want to be a part of the Cardinals and remain here is something that is very important to [owner Bill] DeWitt [Jr.] and myself," Mozeliak said. "He is added to a list of a lot of other players that have made that commitment to this organization."
Three of those other players -- Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Carpenter -- filled the back row of seats at the news conference as a sign of support, and Wong briefly choked up as he thanked them for their presence. In many ways, he wants to become one of them someday as a leader in the clubhouse and an impactful member of the local community.
Wong noted that with this extension, he and his wife are ready to invest themselves into St. Louis. He has been selected as the team's new union player representative, and he's become the face of Jason Motte's K Cancer initiative for the club.
Wong made a quick climb to the Majors, reaching St. Louis two years after the team made him its top pick in the 2011 Draft. His first impression -- which included being picked off to end a World Series game -- wasn't overwhelming, but Wong returned in 2014 and established himself as an everyday player.
The 25-year-old enters 2016 with a career slash line of .250/.303/.374 and has shown flashes of power and speed that the organization believes can become more prominent features of his game. Wong is the franchise's first second baseman since Frankie Frisch (1927-28) to post back-to-back 10-homer seasons.
"To me, I don't believe he's begun to tap into what kind of player he can be," Matheny said. "We're still figuring that out. But you see all the pieces in place for this to be the kind of player that makes a big impact on this organization. I'm excited to watch how this continues to grow."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast.