ST. LOUIS — A day after St. Louis signed a legacy contract with one of its all-time greats, the Cardinals went back to work locking up their young nucleus of talent.
Right fielder Stephen Piscotty became the latest St. Louis youngster to agree to a long-term contract, finalizing a six-year, $33.5 million deal Monday that includes a team option for a seventh season.
Piscotty’s signing was announced a day after St. Louis signed catcher Yadier Molina to a three-year, $60 million deal covering 2018-20, and it is in line with the team’s pre-arbitration contracts it previously signed with current Cardinals Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong.
The contract also follows St. Louis’ signing of star pitcher Carlos Martinez to a five-year, $51 million deal in February — ending a brief, but hectic period of negotiating with homegrown talent for a Cardinals team intent on remaining relevant as a mid-market team in an NL Central currently ruled by the World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
“When you look at the climate of baseball right now and the free-agent market, it’s not a place that we’re going to have a lot of success in if we’re going to rely on it,” St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said. “To be able to lock up our younger and talented players does mean a lot to our future.”
The 26-year-old Piscotty would have been eligible for arbitration following the 2018 season and free agency after the 2021 season. The deal announced Monday calls for a $2 million signing bonus payable within 30 days of approval by the commissioner’s office, salaries of $1 million in each of the first two years, $7 million apiece in 2018 and ’19 and $7.25 million in each of the next two years. The Cardinals have a $15 million option for 2023 with a $1 million buyout, and the option price could escalate to $18 million based on $500,000 for each All-Star selection.
Piscotty had agreed in February to a one-year deal paying $560,400 in the major leagues and $256,250 in the minors.
He made his debut for St. Louis in 2015 and finished sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .305 in 63 games. He had 22 homers and 85 RBIs in 153 games last year.
“Stephen has certainly lived up to his billing as a first-round draft choice with a promising future,” Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt said. “We look forward to him becoming a fixture in a Cardinals uniform.”
Despite an off day following a season-opening win over Chicago, several of Piscotty’s teammates were in attendance for Monday’s news conference to announce his new contract — including Molina.
Piscotty broke down in tears after looking at his teammates in the back of the room and while talking about his two brothers and family.
“This was a pretty easy decision for me,” Piscotty said. “It came down to the fact, one, I love this organization and two, this deal gives myself and my future family financial security.”
While Piscotty is just the latest homegrown St. Louis player to agree to a long-term deal, his signing also comes after a busy offseason in which the Cardinals were active in the free-agent market. They signed center fielder Dexter Fowler away from the Cubs with a five-year, $82.5 million contract and agreed to a four-year, $30.5 million deal with left-handed reliever Brett Cecil.