Heyman reports that the deal will pay Piscotty $33.5 million, while FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract will run for six years with an option. Before the new agreement, Piscotty was eligible for arbitration in 2019 and free agency after the 2021 season. Now, the Cardinals buy out all of his arbitration years along with at least two free agency years.
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While the Molina deal was about keeping a franchise icon in town for (presumably) the rest of his career, the Piscotty extension will secure a young player’s services at an affordable rate for the foreseeable future. St. Louis did something similar with Opening Night starter Carlos Martinez in February, inking him to a five-year pact with a pair of options that could keep the talented right-hander with the club through 2023.
As with Martinez, the Cards are betting that Piscotty is the real deal after seeing impressive results in a small sample size. In Piscotty’s case, the right fielder has only played about one-and-a-third big league seasons. But in that relatively brief span, he’s produced at the plate. Piscotty got off to a fast start after making his debut in 2015, posting a .305/.359/.494 slash line with seven home runs and 39 RBI in 63 games.
Last year, in his first full campaign, Piscotty slashed .273/.343/.457 with 22 homers and 85 RBI over 153 contests. He didn’t quite maintain the pace he set in the previous season (a .372 BABIP in 2015 made that unlikely), but it was certainly a strong showing from a young player.
After a rough spring, Piscotty got off to a solid start in last night’s 2017 regular season kick-off against the reigning champion Cubs. He went 1-for-3 with two walks and a run scored, although he did strike out twice. Those strikeouts are something the Cardinals will want Piscotty to trim down a bit in the future. He owns a 21 percent K-rate at the major league level. He could also afford to draw a few more walks to bump up his 8 percent BB-rate.
One of the biggest differences in Piscotty between 2015 and 2016 is that he pulled the ball a lot more last season. According to Fangraphs, his pull percentage went from 34.6 percent to 42.3 percent, while his opposite field percentage dipped from 34.1 percent to 25.9 percent. Though last year’s performance was nothing to sneeze at, perhaps trying to go the opposite way again would help Piscotty maximize his abilities more.
Piscotty’s defense in right field has been respectable (3.8 UZR/150 and 4 DRS), but he has some experience at the other two outfield spots, as well as a handful of games at first base. This versatility could help the Cardinals depending on how the team changes over the next several years.
The Cards want to return to the postseason in 2017, and they expect Stephen Piscotty to be a significant part of that plan. With this extension, they’re betting he’ll be a key player on many successful Cardinals teams to come.