St. Louis Cardinals Plan to Take Carlos Martinez to Arbitration Hearing

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals will go to battle with their best starting pitcher over $350,000.

The St. Louis Cardinals have been rather productive during baseball’s pre-arbitration process, signing relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist and first baseman Matt Adams to new deals rather than taking the chance of having to battle with the players in arbitration hearings. That apparently won’t be the case with pitchers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, though.

That’s a particularly notable development in the case of Martinez, who has been the Cardinals’ best starting pitcher for the past two seasons. The Cardinals were rumored to be talking about an extension with the 25-year-old Martinez earlier this offseason, but after Martinez’s team filed at $4.25 million and the Cardinals filed at $3.9 million on Friday–the deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration numbers–it sounds as if the Cardinals aren’t going to budge over $350,000.

While the Cardinals still have a month or so to come to resolutions with Martinez and Wacha, GM John Mozeliak said on Sunday that he fully expects the two pitchers’ cases to advance to the hearing process. As Mozeliak said in his press conference at Saturday’s Winter Warm-Up, “We do have time, but our strategy was if we file an exchange, then we would take it to hearing.”

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On the reasoning for the Cardinals’ change in approach, Mozeliak said, “We actually changed a couple years ago and just felt like the deadline, when you look at arbitration, was getting to be something where if agents felt like you weren’t actually going to take it to hearing, you usually got a much higher filing number, which would directly pull up the midpoint. This time around, I think we saw much more conservative filing numbers on both sides, and when you look at the delta between both Martinez and Wacha, they’re not huge. So ultimately, these will see hearing rooms, and we’ll find out how good we are at these.”

If the numbers were more different on the two sides, it’d be easy to see how the Cardinals would be more concerned about Martinez’s salaries over the next two years being driven up further than they would have been otherwise. However, it wouldn’t seem that an extra $350,000 would be significant enough to have that type of impact. Whether the two sides are still on good negotiating terms or not, it’s not a great look for an organization that has often been accused of being cheap over the past two offseasons.

Seeing as Martinez is set to hit the free agent market after the 2019 season, the Cardinals are probably going to want to work out a long-term extension with him sooner or later. Even if Martinez continues to express his love for the Cardinals organization, it’s difficult to understand how this development wouldn’t frustrate his agents at MVP Sports Group, especially after they failed to get an extension with the Cardinals done this winter:

The attempt to penny pinch with Wacha is slightly more understandable as the 25-year-old starter comes off a season in which he posted a 5.09 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 27 appearances (24 starts). There are major questions about whether Wacha will be in the Cardinals’ rotation heading into 2017, so since Wacha’s team filed at $3.2 million while the Cardinals filed at $2.775 million, it makes sense for the Cards to try to keep his salary under $3 million if possible.

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If Martinez and Wacha ultimately reach the hearing process as expected, it will be the first time the Cardinals have taken a player to a hearing since they battled with pitcher Darren Oliver (and won) back in February of 1999.