Cardinals lock up Westbrook with two-year deal
Veteran right-hander stays in St. Louis; rotation seemingly set
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Cardinals can scratch item No. 1 off their offseason shopping list, and they seem to have gotten a good deal in the process.
St. Louis locked up right-hander Jake Westbrook on Tuesday, signing the veteran starter to a two-year deal that's worth a guaranteed $16.5 million and includes a mutual option for 2013 and a full no-trade clause. Established quality starting pitchers often fetch three-year deals on the open market, but Westbrook had a strong desire to remain in St. Louis, so the deal got done for two plus the option.
"I didn't want it to get to the point where I had the [possibility] of the Cardinals maybe finding somebody else and thinking that I didn't really want to be there," Westbrook said. "I knew I wanted to be a part of this team, and I was glad to get something done now. Now I can just not worry about it. I'm looking forward to a full season with the Cardinals."
According to a source close to the negotiations, Westbrook will receive $8 million in 2011 and $8.5 million in '12, followed by the mutual option. After the 2012 season, Westbrook has the right to opt out of the deal. If he does so, he's a free agent with no additional money coming his way. If he does not opt out, the Cardinals can exercise his 2013 option at a value of $8.5 million, or buy the option out for $1 million.
Additionally, Westbrook received blanket no-trade protection. There are no incentive clauses in the deal.
"In my mind, where I'm from, this deal is a lot of money," Westbrook said. "To be able to get this type of money on this caliber of team, to me is a great thing. You can call it whatever you want to call it, but to me it's a great opportunity to play on a great team with great teammates in front of great fans, and I'm happy to be a part of that."
Both Westbrook and Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak cited not only baseball reasons, but an excellent personal match between player and team when discussing the deal. The Cardinals have coveted Westbrook for several years, and the pitcher felt very comfortable within St. Louis' clubhouse environment.
"The reason it became so important was because of how well he fit in the organization, how he worked with the staff," Mozeliak said. "It just seemed like a great fit."
Westbrook, who turned 33 shortly before the season ended, pitched very well for St. Louis after he was acquired in a trade from Cleveland at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He went 4-4 in 12 starts with a 3.48 ERA, striking out 55 against 24 walks.
Even before the season ended, he expressed a desire to return to St. Louis. The club was happy to reciprocate, especially since it was able to avoid guaranteeing a third year. Three-year deals tend to be de rigueur for established veteran starting pitchers. As a concession for that structure, the club was willing to grant the no-trade clause.
"We understood that he had needs too," Mozeliak said. "We recognized that, and so we were able to meet somewhere in the middle. I certainly think it shows his desire to really want to be in St. Louis. I would guess that if he wanted a third year, he could have gotten it."
Getting Westbrook under contract means that the Cardinals' starting rotation for 2011 is set for the time being. Westbrook joins Cy Young runner-up Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse in what should be one of the National League's better starting fives.
"We're all thrilled," Mozeliak said. "We really think it sets up our rotation to be very strong in 2011."
It's still possible that the Cardinals will look to acquire a veteran swingman to provide extra insurance and rotation depth.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.