The Cardinals signed second-year shortstop Paul DeJong to a 6-year extension worth $26 million earlier this week. Apparently, the contract is the largest for any player in MLB history who has not played in the majors for more than one calendar year.
Cardinal Nation was blindsided by this just a few days ago. DeJong, a guy who has played in 108 career games, has more pressure on him than ever before.
Was it a cheap contract? Yes. Is DeJong the shortstop of the future? I guess for now…
The ball club has made some questionable decisions during the 2017-2018 offseason… signing Miles Mikolas to possibly fill a rotation spot (hadn’t played in the MLB since 2014 and currently holds an ERA of 32.40 in spring training); trading away Randal Grichuk; and have been staying relatively quiet in free agency and trade talks since the Marcel Ozuna acquisition back in December… just to name a few.
DeJong was a fantastic player last year. He led the team in home runs (25) and slugging percentage (.532). He has obviously earned his spot for the upcoming season. However… you really think this guy deserves a six year deal after one year of success? He is no longer a fill in guy. He is no longer looked at as a guy who COULD pan out. Anybody who signs a deal of this length, NEEDS to pan out. That is what the organization is making clear with this deal. That is a lot to expect from a guy who only has a little more than 100 games played in the Major Leagues. Nothing is for certain, even after an impressive rookie year.
Whenever I tried to think of a situation where a former Rookie of the Year did not pan out in the long run, one name came to mind. Giovanni Soto. Soto won the Rookie of the Year award in 2008 with the Cubs. He finished his all-star season with a .285 batting average, 23 home runs, 35 doubles, and 86 RBIs. Since that great season, Soto hasn’t had a 20 home run season, a 60 RBI year, or a 100 RBI campaign. He has been with four teams since he left the Cubs in 2012. Last season, Soto played in 13 games and hit .190. It’s safe to say that his career did not work out the way Chicago and the rest of the MLB figured it would.
I’m not saying the same story will make it’s way into Paul DeJong’s life. All I’m saying is that DeJong has to be consistent. There are not many options behind DeJong at short to take over if he can’t perform. Cardinal fans know it and the organization knows it.
There are two guys with a lot of pressure on them heading into the season. One is Paul DeJong and the other one is Tommy Pham. Pham, like DeJong, has earned his starting spot from his performance last year. That’s not where the pressure comes in. The Cardinals traded Stephen Piscotty (mainly for reasons outside of baseball) and Randal Grichuk during the offseason. Two guys that the organization thought were going to be the new dynamic duo for the club just a few years ago. GONE. The club still has a couple of young and talented outfielders with Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, but with the limited amount of time that Bader has had in the majors and the fact that O’Neill has not yet made it to THE SHOW, it puts more focus on Pham to perform well and be consistent for the entire season.
We’ll see what happens, but the questions and worries seem to keep piling up in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SPORTS