It remains to be seen how manager Tony La Russa will actually choose to replace Albert Pujols in the lineup, but he’ll at least have the option of using Mark Hamilton after the Cardinals called the 26-year-old first baseman up from Triple-A today.
Hamilton has struggled previously in a couple brief stints with the Cardinals, but was hitting .385 with more walks (23) than strikeouts (14) in 27 games at Triple-A after batting .298 with 18 homers and a .974 OPS in 72 games there last season.
He’s old for a prospect and doesn’t project as a star, but Hamilton is a solid left-handed bat with some power and plate discipline. He can’t replace Pujols, but if La Russa uses Hamilton as a platoon starter versus primarily right-handed pitchers he can be productive for the next six weeks.
First baseman/outfielder José Martínez agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Cardinals on Saturday, per a team announcement. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Martínez will receive $3.25 million in the deal plus incentives if he earns a more stable place within the starting lineup.
Martínez, 30, played 887 games in the minors before making his major-league debut with the Cardinals at the tail end of the 2016 season. The veteran first baseman has been nothing but productive in the three years since his debut, however, and turned in a career-best performance in 2018 after slashing .305/.364/.457 with 17 home runs, an .821 OPS, and 2.3 fWAR through 590 plate appearances. While he brings some positional flexibility to the table, he’ll be forced to compete against Dexter Fowler and Tyler O'Neill for a full-time gig in right field this year, as Paul Goldschmidt currently has a lock on first base.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the extension wasn’t solely precipitated by Martínez’s productivity in the majors, but by a competing offer from an unnamed Japanese team over the offseason. Goold adds that Martínez would have earned “significantly more than he would in the majors” had the club sold his rights. In the end, they ultimately elected to ink him to a more lucrative deal themselves. He’ll be eligible for arbitration in 2020.