Stephen Piscotty is the latest Cardinal to sign a long-term contract, agreeing to a six-year deal announced on Monday. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Rob Rains

The Cardinals accomplished at least two tasks with the back-to-back signings of Yadier Molina and Stephen Piscotty on Sunday and Monday to long-term contracts.

First, from a strictly baseball standpoint, the two signings mean that seven of the eight regular starting position players on the Cardinals are now under the team’s control through at least the 2020 season.

The only one not signed or controllable for the next four seasons is third baseman Jhonny Peralta, whose contract runs out after this year. The Cardinals do have another third base candidate, Jedd Gyorko, however, who also is signed through 2019 with an option for 2020.

Officially under contract through that season are Molina, Piscotty, Kolten Wong and Dexter Fowler. In addition to Gyorko’s 2020 option, the Cardinals also hold an option on Matt Carpenter’s current contract for that season.

Even though they are not signed for that length of time, shortstop Aledmys Diaz is under the Cardinals’ control through the 2021 season and left fielder Randal Grichuk through 2020.

When pitchers are included, starters Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes and Mike Leake are either signed or controllable through the 2021 season, including the option on Leake’s contract.

The second task the Cardinals’ accomplished with the two signings was to officially be able to retire the belief among some of the team’s fans that the organization under owner Bill DeWitt Jr. does not spend excessively on players, using the catch phrase that he won’t open “DeWallet.”

Evidence would suggest that certainly is not the case.

“I think we’re up there in pretty rarified air at the moment,” DeWitt said.

Since November, DeWitt and the Cardinals have committed more than $250 million in contracts with Brett Cecil, Fowler, Martinez, Molina and now Piscotty. If options on some of the contracts are exercised, the total gets closer to $300 million.

Add in the more than $20 million the Cardinals have paid to sign players during the current international signing period, plus dollar-for-dollar penalties imposed on a majority of those signings for exceeding their bonus pool limits, and the total grows to close to one-third of a billion dollars.

Despite spending all that money, DeWitt was smiling at Monday’s press conference announcing the Piscotty deal, which is for six years with an option for a seventh. The deal reportedly is worth at least $33.5 million.

“We need to lock up our good young players long-term,” DeWitt said, “It’s a win-win. It’s good for them because it takes all of the risk out of their future and it’s good for us because it looks in a fixed expense so we know what we can do otherwise. In our situation it’s a perfect solution for the way we operate.

“We can be competitive at the level where we are. We’re never going to be at the level of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and probably the Cubs as they go forward but we can compete at our payroll level if we sign the right players and draft the right players and do a good job internationally.”

The Cardinals and Cleveland Indians have been the most aggressive teams in trying to sign players while they are still young and relatively inexpensive. In Piscotty’s case, he has just one-plus years of major league experience but the Cardinals were able to buy out all three of his arbitration years and at least one year of free agency.

“These types of investments that we’re making is when you look at the climate of baseball and the free agent market it’s not a place we’re going to have a lot of success in if we’re going to rely on it,” said general manager John Mozeliak. “If we’re able to lock up our young and talented players it does mean a lot to our future.

“There’s an importance in trying to secure what our future will look like. … To me this is about our culture, and Stephen represents everything that we value. We’re strategic when we think about who we’re investing in and why. We’re always open to look to the future. Bill and I have always made it very clear that if makes sense for us we want to pursue it.”

Even though the Cardinals have added Leake and Fowler through free agent deals in the last two off-seasons, Mozeliak wants that to be the exception for the Cardinals and not the norm.

It’s why he believes they and the Indians have been so active in trying to lock up their young players while they are early in their careers.

“There’s a couple of reasons for it; part of it is where we sit market wise,” Mozeliak said. “It’s going to be very difficult for us to rely on the free agent market. So when we have this type of talent come through and be able to do something long-term, it makes sense for us.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains


Listen to the Stephen Piscotty Press Conference