The Cardinals announced yesterday that they had avoided arbitration with their closer Jason Motte. The deal, a two-year deal buying out his final arbitration year, is worth $12 million plus incentives.
After making just $1.95 million last year, Motte filed for $5.5 million in arbitration while the Cardinals filed at $4.5 million. But everyone knew that while this year would be a relative bargain at either of those prices, next year was going to be a big question mark. If Motte duplicated his 2012 season in 2013, the sky was the limit as far as potential earnings ability next year. So for an extra $500,000 this year, they locked him up at a discount rate for 2014 as well.
Motte, 30, led the National League last year with 42 saves, tied with Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel. Over the last three seasons, Motte has been fantastic out of the bullpen for the Cardinals. He’s made 201 relief appearances with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.988 WHIP. Among the 92 relievers who have thrown over 150 innings over the last two years, Motte’s WHIP is 6th.
It’s a good move for the Cardinals to lock down Motte. His history is unquestioned, and it surprised me that it was as good as it was. He hasn’t had any injury concerns either, a rarity. However, with the type of pitcher he is, any sort of discomfort will likely lead to ineffectiveness, so it is something to be concerned with.
The question will be asked whether this is the last deal that Motte signs with the Cardinals as he will likely demand a full-fledged closer’s contract after the 2014 season. That means looking at $10 million per year or more. With the surplus of talented young arms moving through the system, his days may be numbered.
This leaves the Cardinals with just David Freese and Marc Rzepczynski remaining in arbitration. Hearings begin the second week of February, so they have a couple of weeks left to sort through a compromise.