Cardinals’ limited risk paying out big rewards

Special to FOXSportsMidwest.com from Brad Straubinger

ST. LOUIS — It seems every national scribe and publication enjoys boasting about the Cardinals and their model franchise right now.  You would be hard pressed to find another major league club that can tout the voluminous talent at the minor league level being prepped and ready to go for the future, but also having the graduating class of Memphis from the last few years also paying major dividends currently for the first place Birds.  We all know that story.



But perhaps the most untold story is that of the smart money and contracts put together by master financial advisor and general manager John Mozeliak.  Sure, the Albert Pujols affair possibly gave Mo some gray hairs, as he knew straying away from the smart contracts that he’s drawn up in the past to help keep a local icon would have possibly ruined all the stability created in his tenure.



But as well all know, another team went ahead and bet the house with number 5, and it was truly an offer he couldn’t resist. The Angels weren’t done spending and added over $300 million to their payroll for the next decade – but only using that cash on a few prominent players.  So I ask the Halos, is it worth it? Time will tell, but as we have seen in Miami and Toronto among others, four big names do not make a team.



Back here in St. Louis, the first base replacement is locked in for five years thanks to a risk-reward contract to Allen Craig this offseason, a contract could compare to buying a brand new Cadillac at a bargain basement price.



The Cardinals simply don’t go over the top with crazy contracts. The Adam Wainwright signing this offseason is as close as we have seen. It’s a lot of years, and a lot of money for a guy who will play 35 games at the most late in his career. But it was the going rate, and if you can consider giving out just under $100 million a bargain, then we can all agree its good to have the big ace in the fold through the rest of the decade.



And when looking at how the Cards structure deals, they look at who they have now, and the cost of doing business with prospects. If you believe Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha are all going to stay above the average pitcher types, then you can have that one pitcher with a giant contract.  Although this could get sticky down the road with all those guys coming up for big money. But as the fearless leader with the checkbook likes to say ‘Things have a way of working themselves out.’



You add other risk-reward deals like Carlos Beltran or Lance Berkman and so far the risk has paid rewards.  Small contracts with big money for bursts of offense and trips to the postseason have worked out nicely.



The Cards do not hand out giant contracts to four players in one offseason, most of the time because they don’t have to.  And it doesn’t seem like it works in the current state of baseball anyway – at least right now.  It’s just another reason why the Cards are the model franchise, even if the logic gets overlooked by most in the media.