Last year I made the case for letting Carlos Beltran walk when he became a free agent after the season. His age, asking price and the fact that the Cardinals could insert Matt Adams into the lineup made the decision relatively easy.
This year, Jason Motte is in the last year of his two-year, $12 million contract extension that he signed back in January 2013. Unfortunately for the team, Motte missed all of 2013 following Tommy John surgery and just recently made it back to the majors.
However, despite his injury and likely salary demands, I think the Cardinals should try to sign Motte to an extension.
For one thing, the team's seemingly endless supply of young power arms appears to be drying up. With Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Sam Freeman already in the big leagues, there are few power arms remaining in the high minors.
The result is that the Cardinals have lacked depth in their bullpen and thus have had to rely on guys like Keith Butler and Eric Fornataro with little success. In addition, one of the team's better relievers, Pat Neshek, will also become a free agent after the season, potentially leaving the Cards with another hole in their pen.
Another factor is the struggles of Trevor Rosenthal. After a stellar postseason in 2013 as the Cardinals closer, Rosenthal has not been able to carry that success to this season. He currently owns a 4.26 ERA and his walk rate has more than doubled from 2.4 BB/9 in 2013 to 4.9 BB/9 in 2014. His struggles raises concerns about his ability to hold the closer job long-term and Motte has proven he is more than capable of holding down the job.
Finally, while Motte has pitched fairly well so for this year, I expect him to be even better next season. As we saw with Adam Wainwright, it usually takes around 12 months to recover from Tommy John surgery, but around 18 months to 2 years to get back to where you were before.
Wainwright struggled in his first season back form TJ surgery, but proved last year that he was back to full strength and has been even better this year.
As Motte is no longer closing for the Cardinals (at least not yet anyway), they may be able to sign him to a team-friendly contract that could include incentives should he regain the closer role. In any case, the Cards could certainly use his arm in the pen for 2015 and beyond.