ST. LOUIS -- A day after announcing a contract extension with catcher Yadier Molina, the Cardinals further fortified their future core by signing outfielder Stephen Piscotty to a multiyear deal that could keep him in St. Louis through the 2023 season.
The contract includes a guaranteed $33.75 million for Piscotty over the next six seasons. A $15 million club option is attached to the end of the deal, which gives the Cards the flexibility to buy out what would have been Piscotty's second year of free-agent eligibility.
"I think any time you have clarity on what that looks like, that's helpful when you're roster-building and thinking about our future," general manager John Mozeliak said. "When you look at the climate of baseball right now and the free-agent market, it's not a place we're going to have a lot of success in if we're going to rely on it. And to be able to lock up our younger and talented players does mean a lot to our future."
The Cardinals have been aggressive in pursuing long-term contracts with their young players, though this deal came earlier than most. Talks were initiated by Piscotty, who said that "pure curiosity" led him to ask his agent to open dialogue with the Cards. That happened in late February, and both sides quickly saw the potential for a favorable outcome.
Piscotty, who made his Major League debut in July 2015, becomes the fourth Cardinals position player in the past five years to sign a multiyear deal worth at least $25 million before becoming arbitration-eligible. That group also includes Allen Craig (now with the Red Sox), Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong.
The only position players anywhere to sign a multiyear deal worth more than Piscotty's before accruing 1,000 plate appearances were Jedd Gyorko and Ryan Braun.
"This was a pretty easy decision for me," said Piscotty, who was supported at Monday's news conference by teammates Randal Grichuk, Molina and Greg Garcia. "It came down to the fact that, one, I love this organization, and two, this deal gives myself and my future family financial security. The fact that now I can not worry about the business side for the next six years is an extremely relieving feeling. I think it's going to make me a better player. To have that relief is very valuable to me."
Through long-term deals like this one, the Cards have constructed a core that will be mostly static for several years.
Infielders Carpenter and Gyorko are signed through 2020, as is Molina. Wong and center fielder Dexter Fowler have contracts that run through '21. Two other starters who don't have multiyear contracts -- Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz -- are nevertheless under team control through at least '21.
Additionally, the Cardinals have three pitchers -- Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake and Brett Cecil -- in long-term deals that run for at least four more seasons. And that doesn't even include the wave of young pitching under team control. Alex Reyes, for instance, won't be a free agent until 2023.
"Two teams stand out that have been of that mindset," Mozeliak said of this roster strategy. "It's us and Cleveland. Part of it is where we sit in market size. It's going to be difficult for us to rely on the free-agent market. When we can have this type of talent come through and be able to do something long-term, it makes sense for us."
Piscotty's deal also continues a wave of organizational spending that began this past offseason with the pursuit of free agents Cecil (four years, $30.5 million) and Fowler (five years, $82.5 million). Those two contracts, along with those given to Martinez and Molina since the start of the year, represent more than $250 million in financial commitments made by the Cards over a five-month span.
Five years ago, the Cardinals plucked Piscotty out of Stanford University with one of the two picks they netted as compensation for Albert Pujols' departure. Since making his big league debut, Piscotty has posted a .282/.349/.467 slash line and an .816 OPS.
In 2016, Piscotty led the Cards in games played (153), runs scored (86), RBIs (85) and game-winning RBIs (10).
"It's been well noted that's one of his strongest attributes -- how much capacity he has to grow and to learn and his desire," manager Mike Matheny said. "Something else has become very natural to him: to share what he has learned. It's not just about him. It's about the team, making other people better. Those are special people, when they come along. The talent is pretty easy to see. Some of those intangibles, you can just dream about how much better it's going to make him over the long haul."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.