St. Louis Cardinals Reportedly Extend 24-Year-Old Shortstop Paul DeJong (UPDATE)

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St. Louis Cardinals Reportedly Extend 24-Year-Old Shortstop Paul DeJong (UPDATE)

Chicago Cubs

The unusual nature of this offseason has crunched the annual “extension-signing season,” to a much shorter period, but we’re not without any agreements this Spring.

Earlier today, Derrick Goold (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) reported that the St. Louis Cardinals have extended shortstop Paul DeJong to a really team-friendly deal:

According to Goold, DeJong will get $26 million over the next six years.

So if you’re counting at home, this deal doesn’t actually buy up any of DeJong’s free agent seasons (he was a rookie in 2017, but didn’t accrue enough service time for that year to count). Instead, it buys out three years of pre-arbitration (league-minimum) team control and three years of team control via arbitration (it could’ve been four years if he became a Super Two player, but now we won’t know). (The details of the contract have been updated, SEE BELOW). 

If you’re wondering why a 24-year-old shortstop with good defense, who just posted a 122 wRC+ season is already signing an extension, consider that when DeJong was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, he signed for just $200,000. Given how good he was last season, he definitely had a chance to out-earn the $26 million for which he just “settled,” but he also just guaranteed himself life-changing money (sudden injuries and/or periods of ineffectiveness happen).

But still … this looks like a steal.

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Even if the bat somehow isn’t real (and let’s be clear, he hit well throughout the Minor Leagues, too), DeJong was worth 3.0 WAR in his rookie season, in part, because he plays solid defense at a premium position. I know he didn’t give up any free agent seasons, but $26 million feels awfully light given how much value he could provide over the next six years. Moreover, he racks up the sort of counting stats (HRs, Runs, RBIs) that tend to stick out to arbitrators, meaning that he was well set-up to earn some serious cash over the next six seasons.

And for what it’s worth, ZiPS is projecting a bit of a regression in 2018: .254/.303/.453, 26HRs, 1.6 WAR. Shrug. Still looks like a good one for the Cardinals.

As always, this deal matters strategically, because the Cardinals now have some serious cost control on one of their better players, but it also matters educationally.

As we all know, the Cubs have a number of similarly-aged, similarly talented pre-arb and arb players throughout the roster. And regardless of how good of a comp DeJong is to any Cub, in particular, these sort of extensions tend to set the market/precedent for pre-arb deals – which is perhaps especially important in this weird offseason, where free agent deals appear to be a bit out of whack. So we’ll leave it here for now, but if any other details come out we’ll be sure to update and reconsider the impact on the Cubs efforts to sign some young position players of their own.

UPDATE: Just as I click publish, Derrick Goold reveals that the contract *also* contains two option years tacked onto the end (when DeJong is a free agent at 31 and/or 32-years-old), which could add another $24 million to the deal (bringing it to eight years and $50 million total). If those are pure team-options, I have to think this deal looks even better for the Cardinals.

If DeJong does wind up being great, not only will they’ve saved a ton of money capping his earning potential during his arbitration years, but they’ll also be able to secure his early 30s while paying him just $12M/season … six years from now, the’ll look like peanuts for a quality shortstop. And, hey, if he winds up sucking, they’ll have paid him just $26 million over six seasons and can cut bait.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad deal for DeJong (and isn’t far off from other deals we’ve seen) – like I said, he just secured life-changing money after being drafted in the fourth round and having just one good season in the Majors – but it sure seems like it’ll ultimately work out for the Cardinals.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami