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Matt Carpenter extension a clue to what the Indians will pay Jason Kipnis

If the Indians are going to lock up Jason Kipnis on a long-term extension, a reported deal between the Cardinals and their own All-Star second baseman could tell us a lot about the cost.

Jamie Squire

The St. Louis Cardinals and All-Star second baseman Matt Carpenter have agreed to an extension for 6 years, $52 million. This should be of interest to Indians fans, because Carpenter and Jason Kipnis are fairly similar players; with the Tribe interested in extended Kipnis, Carpenter's deal is a logical comparison point for the two sides.

Not only are both players second basemen, Carpenter and Kipnis are also both going into their final year of pre-arbitration eligibility (meaning their team can pay them the league minimum if they want), which is an important element in extension talks. Both players debuted near the end of 2011, and both had their best season last year.

Here's how the two players each did in 2013:

Matt Carpenter 27 11 3 .318 .392 .481 143 6.6
Jason Kipnis 26 17 30 .284 .366 .452 132 5.9

As you can see, Carpenter was a bit better with the bat, while Kipnis stole a lot more bases (the two players rate as similar overall base runner, which would seem to mean Carpenter has done things like going from first to third at a higher clip than Kipnis). Both player are something close to average defensively. Kipnis is a year younger, so that's a small point in his favor.

Between Carpenter's superior production and Kipnis's small age advantage, I think it's reasonable to expect the two players to land similar contracts. Kipnis should probably come a hair cheaper than Carpenter, and so I'd expect it to take something like $50 million to keep him in Cleveland around through 2019, which will be his age-32 season).

I'd also like to point out that when I took a stab at guesstimating what it would take to extend Kipnis two months ago, I landed on 5 years, $37 million, with a $13-million team option for that 6th year, putting it at a total of 6 years, $50 million. In part I bring that up to shameless toot my own horn, but I also mention it because not every contract really sets the market for that position.

Homer Bailey recently got more than most people would have expected (6 years, $105 million), which led many (myself included) to think that was the new market for a pitcher like him. Now that Justin Masterson (a very similar pitcher) is apparently willing to sign for significantly less, it seems that Bailey's deal is going to look like something of an overpay, compared to the market.

If Carpenter's deal was way off from what I'd expected, I'd be torn between it being an overpay and my just having misread the market. Given that it's almost exactly what I'd have predicted though, I think this is the market price. For the Indians to retain Kipnis for much less would be a steal, and to pay much more would be a blunder.

Kipnis is under team control through 2017 either way, but an extension would lock in price certainty (and at a lower price than he's going to get if the team goes year-to-year with him and he keeps putting up numbers like he did in 2013) and keep him on the team for the final year or two of his likely prime. I'm hoping that in the next two weeks, Kipnis is locked up.