March 8, 2013: Cardinals sign Allen Craig to a five-year extension

When Allen Craig signed a five-year, $31 million contract extension with the Cardinals ahead of the 2013 season, he appeared primed for a long career in the middle of the St. Louis lineup.

Less than 17 months later, Craig was playing for the Red Sox and searching for a batting stroke he never was able to recover after suffering a foot injury late in the 2013 season.

The California native played the USA Junior National baseball team and was a four-year starter at the University of California Berkeley before the Cardinals drafted him as a shortstop in the eighth round (256th overall) in 2006.

In his first full pro season, Craig hit .311 with 24 homers and 80 RBIs, including a .312 average in High-A Palm Beach before he received a brief promotion to Double-A Springfield. In 2008, he hit .304 with 22 homers and 85 RBIs to earn a promotion to Triple-A Memphis in 2009. There, he hit .322 with 26 homers and 83 RBIs.

That steady production earned Craig his first taste of major-league action in 2010. In 2011, his role expanded and he appeared in 75 games, batting .315 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs while appearing primarily as a corner outfielder.

Craig became a postseason hero for the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series against the Rangers, hitting three home runs while playing through a knee injury. After hitting a solo home run in Game 3, Craig hit another solo blast in the eighth inning of Game 6. The following night, he made a leaping catch to rob Nelson Cruz of a home run and added a homer of his own as the Cardinals captured the 11th world championship in franchise history.

“I think he’s proven he’s the type of player that, when he’s in the lineup, can make an impact,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said.[1]

Craig missed the first month of the 2012 season following offseason surgery on his injured right knee, but became the Cardinals’ primary first baseman after Lance Berkman was injured. Though he didn’t make his season debut until May 1, Craig’s .307 batting average and .522 slugging percentage each ranked sixth in the National League and he finished the year with 22 homers and 92 RBIs. His .400 batting average with runners in scoring position led the majors.[2]

Shortly after the season ended, Craig approached his agents at ACES, Sam and Seth Levinson, and asked them to approach the Cardinals regarding an extension.[3] On March 8, 2013, Craig and the Cardinals agreed to an extension that would pay Craig $1.75 million in 2013, $2.75 million in 2014, $5.5 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016, and $11 million in 2017. It also included a $13 million option for 2018 with a $1 million buyout.[4]

With the agreement, the Cardinals bought out all three of Craig’s arbitration years and one year of free agency. Without the extension, Craig would have been eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.

“I wanted security for my family and the team thought it was a good idea too, so it’s a tremendous opportunity and I’m incredibly humbled by it,” Craig said. “It’s something I can’t really fathom at this moment but I’m just excited to be a part of this team going forward. I think that’s the main key to this thing. We have a really special thing going on here and to just be a part of it for the next five years is incredibly special.”[5]

Said Mozeliak, “Look at his career path and this certainly gives him some security that he hasn’t had up until this point. For us, it gives us some protection in the middle of the lineup for a long time.”[6]

With the contract, Craig joined Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright as the only players to receive a long-term extension from Mozeliak before they were arbitration-eligible. The deal also made Craig and catcher Yadier Molina the only players on the Cardinals roster with guaranteed contracts that extended through the 2017 season.[7]

“This is something that you’re always striving for – to get a commitment from the team,” Craig said. “It’s been a tough road to reach the big leagues and stick and get playing time and whatnot. I’m just glad it’s going to continue here. The future is bright.”[8]

Craig said he appreciated the stability the contract offered him, even as he recognized that if he continued his 2012 production, he could have earned more than the approximately $6 million annual average value the extension provided.

“Of course you think about it, but the future isn’t guaranteed,” Craig said. “I believe in my abilities and that I’ll be around for a long time, but there are some things that are out of your control. A couple years ago I slid and broke my kneecap in the wall, and that’s not something that happened because I’m injury-prone. I was playing hard. You never know what’s going to happen. I just think it’s not in my personality to push it and risk it all.”[9]

Craig’s decision proved to be a wise one. In 2013, he played in a career-high 134 games, batting .315 with 13 homers and 97 RBIs. That September, however, he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot that caused him to miss the last 23 games of the regular season as well as the NLDS and NLCS. When he returned for the World Series, he went 6-for-16 (.375) with a double.

Craig’s 2014 season never got off the ground. After batting .220 with March and April, he appeared to recover in May, batting .291 for the month with 19 RBIs. In June, however, he hit .255 with a .311 slugging percentage, and his offense cratered in July, batting just .122 in 54 plate appearances. With highly touted prospect Oscar Taveras waiting to take over right field, the Cardinals traded Craig and relief pitcher Joe Kelly to the Red Sox for John Lackey.

“At some point what was happening in the outfield was going to have to be dealt with,” Mozeliak said. “When you look at the depth we’ve been building at the outfield position, trying to create opportunity in the short term is important.”[10]

Craig was sitting with teammates and watching television in a room adjoining the Cardinals’ clubhouse when he learned of the trade on TV.[11] The deal was one of four the Red Sox made that day as they sought to rebuild a roster that had won the 2013 World Series but was now in last place in the American League East.

Unfortunately, Craig never regained his swing in Boston. He hit just .128 the rest of the season and was batting.135 in 2015 before he was demoted to Triple-A, where he hit .274 with four homers and 30 RBIs.

After making a brief return to the majors as a September call-up, Craig spent the rest of his career in the minors. The Red Sox released him on June 30, 2017, and the following winter he signed with the Padres on a minor-league deal. Craig showed a glimpse of his previous form with Triple-A El Paso in 2018, batting .293 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs in 363 plate appearances, but the Padres released him the following March. That April, he accepted a job with the Padres as an advisor to baseball operations.

In six major-league seasons, Craig hit .291/.343/.460 with 57 homers and 291 RBIs.  


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[1] “Cards, Craig agree on five-year contract,” Evansville Courier and Press, March 9, 2013.

[2] “Cards, Craig agree on five-year contract,” Evansville Courier and Press, March 9, 2013.

[3] Derrick Goold, “Cards sign Craig to 5-year deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 10, 2013.

[4] “Cards, Craig agree on five-year contract,” Evansville Courier and Press, March 9, 2013.

[5] “Cardinals give Craig multi-year deal,” Fox Sports Midwest, https://www.foxsports.com/midwest/story/cardinals-give-craig-multi-year-deal-030813.

[6] Derrick Goold, “Cards sign Craig to 5-year deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 10, 2013.

[7] Derrick Goold, “Cards sign Craig to 5-year deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 10, 2013.

[8] Derrick Goold, “Cards sign Craig to 5-year deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 10, 2013.

[9] Derrick Goold, “Cards sign Craig to 5-year deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 10, 2013.

[10] Joe Strauss, “Mozeliak moves to fix two problems,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 2014.

[11] Derrick Goold, “Major Shakeup,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 2014.

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