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Cardinals sign reliever Chris Stratton to one-year deal ahead of 'tender' deadline

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Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Chris Stratton (30) and Yadier Molina (4) celebrate the Cardinals win in a game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

A week crammed with deadlines for roster decisions neared its end with the Cardinals locking in one of the pitchers they have to make a choice on.

The Cardinals and reliever Chris Stratton agreed on a one-year deal for 2023, the team announced. The deal is worth $2.8 million, per a source.

Stratton, 32, came to the Cardinals at the trade deadline along with lefty Jose Quintana from the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 20 appearances with the Cardinals, Stratton was 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings. He has spent parts of the past seven years pitching in the majors, most of that time as a reliever with the Pirates.

The Cardinals and Stratton reached agreement on the eve of baseball's deadline for teams to present ("tender") contracts to arbitration-eligible players. The value of those contracts can be set through negotiations later in the offseason or arbitration hearings next spring. Stratton is entering his third and final year of arbitration eligibility. If a team does not want to be locked into the arbitration process and the salary raise it's likely to cause, that team can negotiate a new deal, as the Cardinals did with Stratton, or elect to "non-tender" the player.

That player immediately becomes a free agent.

Major League Baseball inched up the non-tender deadline so that players could hit the open market earlier and ahead of Thanksgiving.

The Cardinals plan to tender contracts to almost all of their other 10 eligible players, though the team continues to deliberate what to do with right-hander and longtime top prospect Alex Reyes. The All-Star closer missed all of the 2022 season with shoulder soreness that ultimately required shoulder surgery. His current rehab schedule his ready to return to the majors in May. Reyes' salary is likely to remain static, at $2.85 million, if he goes into the arbitration process.

The deadline for that decision on tendering contracts is Friday night.

A new wave of free agents will reach the open market as teams non-tender some players, if they're unable to trade them.

The Cardinals have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

Stratton is the second arbitration-eligible player to agree to a deal ahead of entering the arbitration process. Giovanny Gallegos signed a multi-year deal at the end of the regular season to avoid any arbitration hearings or decisions. The other nine players who are arbitration eligible are pitchers Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks, Genesis Cabrera, and Dakota Hudson; outfielder Tyler O'Neill; infielder Tommy Edman; and catcher Andrew Knizner. 

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