MILWAUKEE - The Cardinals on Friday announced agreement with pitcher Chris Carpenter on a two-year extension with a vesting option for 2008. Terms were not announced.
The deal was agreed to in principal earlier this week and gives the club control over four of its five starting pitchers through next season. It also gives Carpenter, who turns 30 on April 27, an extended contract less than two years after he missed the entire 2003 season following two surgeries on his right shoulder.
"It's very exciting for me and my family. It's exciting to be part of the Cardinals team for several more years," Carpenter said before Friday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers. "It's good to know the players, the manager and the general manager who are going to be around. It plays into wanting to be part of this team."
Carpenter emerged as a force by going 15-5 last season. A bruised right biceps nerve sidelined him for the schedule's final two weeks and the team's postseason run.
The deal is believed to pay Carpenter about $6 million per season should the third season vest. That figure is considered below market should Carpenter construct another season like his 2004. However, Carpenter admitted his health history played a part in accepting a deal now rather than waiting until free agency to exercise more leverage.
"There are other things involved," he said. "Once you're hurt, it's on your mind a lot and you never forget about it. When I first hurt my shoulder (in 2002), I went out and it was fine. I felt good. Then I came in one day and couldn't throw anymore. Nothing ever leads up to it. You don't know how it happens, when it happens or why it happens. The same thing happened last year. I felt better at the end of the season than at the beginning, then I end up with a biceps problem."
Carpenter has long voiced appreciation for the Cardinals re- signing him as a free agent after he missed 2003 following an abortive rehabilitation. His current contract pays him $2 million plus incentives this season.
Cardinals general partner Bill DeWitt Jr. called it "an important move" for an organization that carries five 15- game winners from 2004. General manager Walt Jocketty, who initiated negotiations with Carpenter's agent, Bob Lamonte, in spring training, described the deal as one that "works for both parties."
The deal, which reportedly includes significant appearance incentives as well as the vesting option, falls below those signed by free agents Kris Benson, Eric Milton and Jaret Wright. Those pitchers received guaranteed three-year deals worth $21 million to $23 million.
"Basically my other option was to pitch the season and then look into the free agent market, or get it done now and know that for the next three years I was going to be where I wanted to play," he said. "There's a lot of stability in this organization. Everybody here is pretty solid in the direction they're going. There is no transition. I wasn't going to go somewhere just for the money and take the chance of being miserable."
Carpenter is part of a rotation that shares a friendship as well as a responsibility. Fellow starter Matt Morris helped push him during his rehab before last season, and Carpenter reciprocated after Morris underwent shoulder surgery in December.
"This is the place I want to play," Carpenter said. " At some point in time you've got to factor the money people talk about against the fact I enjoy coming to the park every day and being around these guys."
I see this as great news.