Jose Martinez, Cards agree on 2-year deal

February 23rd, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- As a gesture recognizing Jose Martinez's impact and importance to the big league team, the Cardinals on Saturday rewarded the outfielder/first baseman with a two-year contract that buys out the first of Martinez’s three arbitration years.

The contract, which includes a signing bonus, will pay Martinez $3.25 million over the next two seasons. He will receive a higher guaranteed salary this year than he would have if the club had simply renewed his contract. The deal also offers Martinez some financial certainty for the first time in his career. He still won’t qualify for free agency until after the 2022 season.

“You always want this kind of stuff, but you don’t know when you’re going to get it,” Martinez said after signing his first multiyear contract. “You show up every day with the same mentality, trying to help the team win. If you’re a good teammate, good things will happen to you. That’s why I’m going to stay the same. I’m going to play hard now. I’m going to go out there and try to help the team any way I can.”

The Cardinals entertained offers for the 30-year-old Martinez this offseason before ultimately deciding he’d be more valuable returning as a backup. The club was also presented with an offer to sell Martinez’s rights to a Japanese team, a move that would have given Martinez a greater financial windfall, but one that didn’t make sense for the organization.

Understanding the financial implication of that decision for Martinez, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said the Cardinals felt compelled to work out a contract more reflective of Martinez’s value to the club.

“Given where he is in his career at his age, in terms of earning power, those things can be a little bit limited,” Mozeliak said. “Not always do you get to do something that’s positive or beyond just a business decision, and that’s what this was.”

Though he led the Cardinals in average (.305) and hits (163) last year, Martinez projects to open the season on the bench. He’ll be an option to play both corner-outfield spots, as well as first base, and he owns a .408 average as a pinch-hitter. Martinez has slashed .309/.372/.478 in 270 games since making his Major League debut in September 2016.

“Tip of the hat to the organization for rewarding what he’s done and also establishing that he’s important in what we’re doing moving forward,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “I think that spoke as loud as anything.”

On the clock

With Grapefruit League play underway, the Cardinals are getting their first exposure to a 20-second pitch timer that could be implemented this regular season either unilaterally by Major League Baseball or through an agreement with the MLB Players Association.

The spring rollout will be gradual so that players can become familiar with the system. Beginning next week, umpires will issue reminders, but not penalties, to hitters or pitchers who violate the time restrictions. Ball-strike penalties could be introduced late in Spring Training.

“We don’t feel like, candidly, it’s going to be overly impactful,” Shildt said. “I think the most important thing is we go out there, we play with it, we feel what it looks like, and then we adjust accordingly.”

Those who have come through the Minors since 2015 are already familiar with the system. The rule requires the batter to be in the box with at least five seconds remaining and that the pitcher to his windup or motion to come set before the 20-second time expires.

“Twenty seconds with nobody on base is an eternity,” lefty Austin Gomber said. “It really is a long time. And I think most of the guys coming up in my generation, it won’t affect at all. We’ve had to go through it.”

Up next

Paul Goldschmidt is slated to make his Cardinals debut on Sunday when the Cardinals host the Nationals in a 12:05 p.m. CT at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Goldschmidt is expected to hit third in the Cardinals’ lineup behind Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler, both of whom will also be making their first appearances of the Grapefruit League season. Michael Wacha will draw the start against Erick Fedde, with Daniel Ponce de Leon scheduled to follow in relief.