Cardinals closer Jason Motte drove up from Memphis to St. Louis on Tuesday for a checkup.
He returned home that night with a commitment.
The club and its closer avoided arbitration and finalized a two-year, $12 million contract. The deal, which was announced Tuesday evening, rivets Motte into the bullpen until he's eligible for free agency at the end of the 2014 season.
"Last year during the winter, there was the talk about what I was going to do, was I going to stay the closer or how was it going to work with everyone?" Motte said during his drive back to Memphis. "I knew it wasn't just going to be based on one good season. It takes a lot more than that. For them to extend a two-year deal, I know these aren't just given out. You have to work your butt off once you get it."
Motte, 30, tied for the National League lead with 42 saves last season, his first as the Cardinals' full-time closer. For the first time in Cardinals history one pitcher recorded every save of the season, and his total made him one of only four Cardinals closers with at least 40 saves. Motte converted 42 of his 49 opportunities and did so with a 2.75 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 72 innings. He seized control of the ninth inning late in 2011 and closed out the team's World Series championship.
A two-year agreement with Motte leaves only two arbitration-eligible players unsigned for the coming season. Lefty Marc Rzepczynski and third baseman David Freese exchanged salary figures with the Cardinals last Friday.
Freese said Monday that he hopes to avoid an arbitration hearing and that his agent continues to have dialogue with the Cardinals. The two sides are trying to find commonality between the agent's request ($3.75 million) and the Cardinals' offer ($2.4 million). The salaries exchanged for Rzepczynski are closer, $1.3 million from the player's representative and $900,000 from the club.
Arbitration hearings will be held next month. The players and clubs can continue to negotiate a contract up until their hearing.
The Cardinals have not gone to a hearing with a player since 1999.
Cardinals commit to their closer
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Jan 23