Cardinals Announce Two-Year Deal with Jose Martinez

photo: Jose Martinez (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Saturday, February 23) that they have signed outfielder José Martínez to a two-year contract (2019-20).  Financial terms of the new deal were not disclosed.

“José has been a key contributor to our team since his acquisition in 2016, and we’re pleased to announce this new two-year deal,” stated Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. “José has proven to be a key member of our roster and he is someone who brings high energy and passion for our team and its fans.”

Jose Martinez

Martínez, 30, led the Cardinals in batting (.305) and hits (163) in 2018, finishing 7th among National League batting leaders.  The right-handed hitting outfielder finished 2nd among the team’s RBI leaders in 2018, with 42 of those RBI coming with two outs, ranking 3rd in the Senior Circuit to Trevor Story (57) and Christian Yelich (52).

Martínez, the son of the late former Major Leaguer Carlos Martínez, played in 887 games in the minors before making his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2016.   The Venezuela native owns a .408 career batting mark (20-for-49) as a pinch-hitter, ranking 2nd all-time in MLB history (min. 50 plate appearances) to Kevin Seitzer (.411).

Brian Walton’s take

It is a nice turnaround for Martinez, who was a rumored trade candidate for much of the early part of the off-season. Instead, the Cardinals reward a key player, who while does not have a starting berth currently, is the top reserve in the corner outfield positions.

While his 2019 contract was already covered, renewable by the team, this new deal encompasses next season as well, which will be the first of his three arbitration years. As such, this extension is really about settling his 2020 salary now and avoiding arbitration next winter.

Martinez’ current MLB service time is two years, 27 days, putting him on track to reach free agency after the 2022 season. At that point, the Venezuelan native will be 34 years of age. In the interim, Martinez will also be eligible for arbitration following the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

As many know, however, Major League Baseball’s current labor agreement expires in December 2021, so there could be new free agency rules in place by his final season of Cardinals team control.

When the amount of Martinez’ new contract is reported, this article will be updated. Given his service time, the amount should be relatively modest. Martinez was paid $560,400 in 2018.


Here is the contract value, covering this season and next. Further updates coming when the incentives are disclosed, which are reportedly tied to plate appearances.

Update #2

There is another motivating factor in granting this extension now. While the Cardinals would not likely have been motivated to release Martinez from his commitment to them to play overseas, it is suggested this deal was crafted to pay him more than he would have received from the Cardinals otherwise to reflect the overseas offer, rumored to be from a Japanese club.

Clearly, the Cardinals were not looking to just get rid of Martinez, so selling his contract overseas would not have helped the club. The cost-certainty of his new deal, including potentially more money up front in 2019, likely helps Martinez feel better about missing out on perhaps making more money overseas.

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