The new, lighter and more effective version of St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jake Westbrook had a big day on Tuesday as the club announced the two sides agreed to a contract extension that carries through the 2013 season and includes a mutual option for 2014. His current contract included an $8.5 million mutual option for next year, which in essence has now been executed. Westbrook will make $8.75 million in 2013, with the 2014 mutual option worth $9.5 million or a $1 million buyout.
The action culminates a major turnaround for Westbrook, who was considered the number five starter in the 2011 post-season. The right-hander was not used in the National League Division Series, left off the roster entirely in the Championship Series and made two one-inning relief appearances against Texas in the World Series.
Westbrook reported to 2012 spring camp in much better shape and his results improved as well. The 34-year-old has a 12-9 mark so far this season with a 3.50 ERA in 24 starts, putting him just three wins shy of 100 for his career. He has 16 “quality starts” this season, second on the team to Kyle Lohse (19).
Among the game’s most proficient pitchers at inducing groundballs, Westbrook is leading the National League in both double plays induced (22) and groundball percent (73.3) this season. He has allowed just 10 home runs, ranking fourth in the league for fewest home runs allowed/9 IP.
A solid defender as well, Westbrook is annually among the game’s top fielding pitchers. This year, he is among NL pitching leaders in total chances/9 IP (2.97) and assists/9 IP (2.22).
On July 31, 2010, Westbrook was acquired by the Cardinals from Cleveland in a three-way trade. St. Louis also received lefty Nick Greenwood and outfielder Ryan Ludwick moved to San Diego. Westbrook has built a 28-22 mark with a 4.01 ERA in 69 starts with the Cardinals. His win total of 28 since his acquisition is the 10th best in the National League with Roy Halladay, Ian Kennedy and Clayton Kershaw first with 35.
This extension would seem to serve as an insurance policy given the uncertainty about the health of Chris Carpenter. Other starters under team control for 2013 include Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly. That does not include highly talented, but unproven youngsters Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller. Lohse will be a free agent this fall and it seems unlikely, barring trades or injuries to others, that he will return next season.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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