2011 World Series Game 7 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are just rubbing it in now. As if compiling oodles of young talent to go with the bevy of established stars on their roster isn’t enough, now the Cardinals feel the need to buy off the free agency years of said talented young players.

Allen Craig is the latest Cardinals player to sign a long-term contract extension, inking a five-year deal worth $31 million with an option for a sixth, keeping Craig in St. Louis until 2017. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Craig will make $1.75 million this year, $2.75 million in 2014, $5.5 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017. The 2018 option is $13M with a $1MM buyout.

What do you know about Allen Craig? Do you know how old he is? What position does he play? Is he any good? Some of these questions have surprising answers. Allen Craig is a terrific hitter, ranking 15th in baseball by wRC+ over the last two seasons. That’s good!

He’s also sort of old yet relatively inexperienced, not making his big league debut until the age of 25. He also missed considerable time in 2011 due to a knee injury sustained crashing into an outfield wall. Outfield wall collisions are no longer a concern for Craig, as he is now the Cardinals everyday first baseman, a position that suits him well. So the Cards lock him up through his age-34 season, all at very reasonable rates.

How will Allen Craig age? As stated earlier, he’s a great offensive player. The question remains – how will he age. Craig doesn’t walk a ton and features a highish BABIP for a man of his size/speed profile.

The list of players with similar offensive numbers over the last two years (wRC+ greater than 130, walk rate under 8%) offers hope. Seven players who we can hopefully agree are all good hitters and Allen Craig. Guys with good bat control who hit line drives to all fields. Worrying about Adrian Beltre or Robinson Cano‘s walk rate is a waste of your time. They rake. End of story.

The Cardinals are the Cardinals because they don’t make many mistakes – specifically in the player evaluation department. Their belief in Craig’s ability to hit for the next five years is as ringing an endorsement as you can hear.

Law’s comment reflects a common and logical belief: why pay anything for non-elite production at first base? Take another look at the first leaderboard: Allen Craig is elite. And now he’s a member of the Cardinals for five more years.