By Rob Rains
Matt Carpenter played in seven games for the Cardinals in 2011, collecting his first major-league hit, then went back to Memphis and watched as the team went out and won the World Series.
Even though he didn’t really think he deserved it, Carpenter received a world championship ring along with every other player who was on the roster at any point that season.
Trying to earn a ring that he actually thinks he deserves is Carpenter’s only goal in the remaining years of his career, and now he will have at least two more years to try to make it happen with the Cardinals.
The Cardinals agreed to a new two-year contract with Carpenter on Wednesday that replaces an option he had for next season on his current contract. The new deal covers the 2020 and 2021 seasons and includes a vesting option for 2022 or a buyout clause.
“I have a World Series ring that I was graciously given but I didn’t really feel like I was a part of,” Carpenter said. “There’s nothing I want more than that. It’s a big reason why I wanted to be here because I know that’s coming and it’s coming with this group. It would have broken my heart to not be a part of it.
“Now I get a chance to do that. It’s the number one thing, the only thing I want to accomplish as a Cardinal is winning the World Series. I see how you are cherished in this town for life if you accomplish that goal. I’ve seen it. I want that more than anything.”
Carpenter will be 35 in the second year of the new contract, which all but guarantees he will spend his entire career with the Cardinals.
“Where he’s at in his career we wanted him to continue to wear the Cardinals’ uniform,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, at the news conference announcing the new deal. “He takes such great pride in the city of St. Louis.
“It really was something that we felt like if we could find a way to have a meeting of the minds it just made sense and we were able to do that.”
It’s the fourth contract extension the Cardinals have signed in the last month. They also have locked up Paul Goldschmidt for six years, Miles Mikolas for four and Jose Martinez for two. Their entire starting infield of Carpenter, Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong are all under contract for at least the next two years.
“Carp sent me a text about a week and a half ago and said ‘This is a good team. We have a lot of good energy on this club,’” Mozeliak said. “We’re pleased to make this announcement.”
Carpenter could very will join teammates Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright as lifetime Cardinals, never playing for another team in the major-leagues.
“To be able to potentially be here for an entire career is something that I don’t take for granted,” Carpenter said. “Every day it’s something I try to live up to. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. acknowledged the importance of having players who are lifetime Cardinals.
“That’s a key part of what this franchise is all about,” DeWitt said. “When we get a core player we want to keep them here, and we’ve made every effort to do that since I’ve been here. Continuity lines up nicely with our fan base.”
Added Mozeliak, “There’s a reason these are people the organization has invested in. In a lot of ways they are investing in us. What I mean by that is by the commitment they make, not only to our team but to the community and really to the organization as a whole. That is something we recognize and value.”
That is something which manager Mike Shildt notices, as well as the other players who have agreed to extensions of late, not just with the Cardinals but for other teams as well.
“I think it’s a positive thing for baseball when you can look up and see people staying in the same situation,” he said. “We are recognizing our gifts, and Matt Carpenter is a gift.”
The key that Shildt sees in having the entire starting together for three consecutive seasons, at least, comes in the level of communication he sees from that group.
“We don’t talk about that like they do in basketball, but it’s important in our game too,” Shildt said. “We see the residual value in what that looks like. Each individual brings tremendous value because they are all good players. Collectively there’s exponential value.”
Said Carpenter, “I was just very clear in my message that this is where I wanted to be. It’s home for my family and my wife and I. … You can’t play in a better place than St. Louis … it’s a no brainer for me.
“My stance on wanting to be here has never changed. … There’s an expectation to win here and we go for it every season. If you want to play this game and you want to play it at a high level, which is what it’s all about, you can’t ask for a better situation than what we have here.”
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports
To hear the press conference in its entirety, click the audio player below.