Spring Training, Day 12: Paying the Wrench

I was on Yankees duty today, but it was a very quiet day for the bunch of Bombers who took the field in Jupiter. Pretty much all of the big news was in Tampa, where Andy Pettitte threw and Derek Jeter took at-bats in a simulated game.

Somewhat similarly, the biggest news for the Cardinals was also not an on-field matter. The club announced a five-year deal with Allen Craig.

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Craig’s as a player and have been for a while. He’s a pure hitter without many equals, a guy with power, strike zone judgment and the ability to hit for average.

And thus, I really like this deal for the Cardinals. It makes sense in a lot of ways. It buys out exactly the years you want to buy, agewise — Craig will turn 33 in the last full year of the deal. They get his age 28-32 seasons at cost certainty, with a club option on the age-33 year.

The dollars are very reasonable, peaking at $9 million in his last arbitration season, $11 million in what would have been his first year of free agency, and $13 million on the option.

Moreover, I like the thought process behind it, from the club’s perspective. They got one year of free agency, which is just right. If you buy out only the pre-free agency years, you gain cost certainty but not actually any of the player’s service that you didn’t already have. By getting control over the first two years of his free agency, Craig’s age-32 and 33 seasons, they make sure they have what should be the tail end of his prime, without committing to what will likely be his decline phase.

By the way, from Craig’s perspective this is also a very good deal. He gets the guarantee that he likely never thought he’d get as a former eighth-round pick. He gets security against injury worries. Even though this is a good deal for the club, I absolutely understand why Craig took it, and I think he was wise to do so.

It’s the rare win-win. 

Today’s game in a nutshell: The Marlins jumped on Adam Warren with a whole bunch of base hits, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and cruising to a 6-1 win over the Yankees. Nathan Eovaldi walked three and didn’t strike anyone out, but got through four innings with only one run on the board.

Player of the day: It’s a guy I like quite a lot, Marlins catcher Rob Brantly. I thought he was a nice get in the trade with Detroit last summer, and he hit extremely well after the trade. I don’t know how much star potential there is in Brantly, but I think he can be a competent Major League regular right now. Brantly was 2-for-2 with a walk, a double and two runs scored.

Quote of the day: “I think that’s what’s so great about Mo: in a time where a lot of times people are always trying to add on, add pitches, Mo mastered what he was great at. He said, you know what? I can do it with this, and I can be almost perfect.” — Joe Girardi on Mariano Rivera

Miles driven: 5 today, 1074 for the trip

Starbucks visits: 1 today, 12 for the trip

Up next: I’m in Port St. Lucie tomorrow to see the Astros and the Mets, working on some long-term projects and probably writing a column. And, of course, enjoying a Taco in a Helmet.

And, finally, the playlist:

Today it’s a simple one. It’s side 2 of Sticky Fingers by the Stones.

“I Got the Blues”
“Sister Morphine”
“Dead Flowers”
“Moonlight Mile”



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