Cardinals extending core group of players

Cardinals extending core group of players
JUPITER, Fla. -- For all the attention the Cardinals have received for their inability to retain Albert Pujols after the 2011 season, the club has since had a string of successful extension negotiations that have positioned the club to retain a core of players well into the future.

The five-year, $97.5 million extension that Adam Wainwright agreed to this week ensures he will be with the organization through the 2018 season. The deal comes just 13 months after the Cardinals successfully stopped catcher Yadier Molina from exploring free agency by signing him to a five-year, $75 million contract. If Molina's mutual option is exercised, he, too, will be a Cardinal through 2018.

In between those two deals, the Cardinals gained some cost certainty and at least one free agency year from Allen Craig, who, earlier this month, inked a five-year, $31 million extension with the club. In January, the Cardinals bought out Jason Motte's last arbitration seasons via a two-year agreement.

"You have to have a core and that core is this group of guys that this organization is committing to," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think you're seeing a common trend. You're seeing some guys that go about it the right way who are very talented, which is important. But these are guys who get it. They understand what this organization is all about. They understand the responsibility of what it means to be a Cardinal and doing it the right way, and the organization is trying to keep those guys so they can keep that environment. That, to me, is a great business move."

If Craig's club option is picked up, he, like Wainwright and possibly Molina, won't be a free agent until after the '18 season. Outfielder Matt Holliday, who signed a seven-year extension after the 2009 season, could be a Cardinal through 2017, should the organization exercise his option. Even starter Jaime Garcia fits on this timeline, as the four-year extension he signed in July 2011 includes the option for the Cardinals to extend the deal through 2017.

"In essence, when we look at a one-year or three-year or five-year window, we are trying to make sure that we retain our top talent that we know we can count on to be a part of the organization," general manager John Mozeliak said. "Then, we believe in what our system is going to produce to augment that."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.