Matt Carpenter's impressive tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals appears as though it will have an unceremonious conclusion, but the three-time All-Star says he doesn't want 2021 to be his final major league season.
Carpenter spoke candidly about his future earlier this week, both with the team he's played his entire career for and in the sport as a whole.
“I don’t want this particular season to be the end of my career, and I certainly do have hopes of continuing to play,” Carpenter told Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I don’t know what the future holds for me as far as what their plans are, what the plans for me are. I definitely want to play.”
Once an on-base machine for the Cardinals, Carpenter has slashed .216/.332/.372 in 556 at-bats since the start of the 2019 season. The 36-year-old's two-year/$39 million deal will expire at the conclusion of this season. Carpenter's contract has an $18.5 million vesting option for 2022, but both because of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and a decreased role at this advanced stage of his career, he'll fall short of the 1,100 plate appearances he needs between 2020 and 2021 for the option to vest. The Cardinals will then be left to decide on a $12 million option for 2022, which they'll almost certainly decline and pay a $2 million buyout on.
There would be nothing stopping the Cardinals from re-signing Carpenter after that, but you do get the sense that this may be a good time for both sides to move on.
Whether another team would have interest in Carptenter this upcoming offseason or not is unclear. Carpenter has -7 defensive runs saved at second base in 2021, so at this point his best role may be as a swing corner infielder/DH. We don't know if the DH will become universal in 2022 as part of the new collective bargaining agreement that will need to be in place before the season starts. It's also hard to tell if Carpenter would be willing to accept a minor league deal with an invite to big league spring training from a potential suitor, because there's a very real chance that will be his only opportunity to play in 2022.