While few baseball players spend their entire career with one team, Kolten Wong seemed like a good fit as a potential lifelong member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The second baseman was the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2011 from the University of Hawaii. Two years later, he was in the major leagues and part of a team that reached the World Series.
Wong eventually settled in as a regular and The Cardinals signed him to a five-year, $25-million contract prior to the 2016. He was a steady if not unspectacular performer while helping St. Louis to five postseason appearances in eight years.
Wong seemingly got a little better each season and became a slightly better than league-average offensive performer. He won his first National League Gold Glove last season and is one of three finalists for the award again this year.
Furthermore, Wong became a fan favorite. At just 5-foot-7 and 185 pounds, he was the type of player with which the everyman could identify.
Wong also developed into a leader in the clubhouse and a go-to guy for the media when they needed to ask big-picture questions.
Yet Wong is no longer a Cardinal.
The team announced Wednesday this it had declined its $12.5-million option on his contract for 2021. Instead, the Cardinals paid Wong a $1-million buyout and allowed him to become a free agent.
That the Cardinals said goodbye to Wong – though president of baseball operation John Mozeliak would not rule out a reunion at a lower salary – is the first concrete sign that the free agent market is going to be very chilly this winter.
Players began filing for free agency Wednesday, a day after the World Series ended, and can begin signing contracts with teams Sunday.
The general expectation among club executives, agents and players has been that dollars will be tight.
Commissioner Rob Manfred claims Major League Baseball’s 30 teams lost $8.3 billion in revenue during the shortened 2020 season because games were played without fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gone was money generated by ticket sales, concessions and parking. The owners have attempted to make up for the shortfall by either jettisoning or furloughing large numbers of employees on both the baseball and business sides of their operations.
The Cardinals, one of the sport’s higher-revenue franchises, showed Wednesday that they are in cost-cutting mode by not exercise their option on Wong.
Wong will likely be replaced at second base by utility player Tommy Edman. Not having the major league service time necessary for salary arbitration, Edman will make close to the minimum salary next season.
The minimum salary was $563,000 this year and is subject to a cost-of-living increase in 2021.
Whatever the minimum winds up being in 2021, it is certain that more players will have salaries closer to that than the $12.5 million Wong could have made.
Source: Forbes – Business