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02/09/10 6:31 PM EST

Security key to Schumaker's deal

Cards second baseman clear on where priorities lie

ST. LOUIS -- Skip Schumaker officially joined baseball's middle class this week. It's appropriate for someone who says he still views himself as a middle-class kind of guy.

By agreeing to a two-year contract to avoid arbitration, Schumaker bought himself exponentially more security than he's ever had in his professional baseball career. He may also have left some money on the table. Schumaker said Tuesday that that's irrelevant. For a player who has been optioned to the Minors during the regular season five different times -- including once when he was hitting .304 and slugging .451 in July -- security is the key.

Schumaker's base salary in 2010 will be $2 million, which is a bit less than the midpoint between the numbers he and the team filed in the arbitration process. His base salary in 2011 will be $2.7 million, which is a good bit less than he might have made if he'd gone year-to-year and had another good season in 2010. As ballplayers go, Schumaker isn't wildly wealthy. But he hasn't lost sight of the fact that on any reasonable scale, he's now doing very, very well for himself.

"That's a whole lot of money for me," he said. "I'm from a middle-class family and I consider myself middle class. We don't do too much. [My wife and I] both grew up in a middle-class kind of lifestyle, and that's how I want to raise my kids. This is a whole lot of money for me. I know [that] what I make per year, some guys are making per check in the Major Leagues. But this is a whole lot of money for me and I'm very happy about it."

There's also another, important factor. Though Schumaker could have made a lot more next year, he also could make a lot less. Schumaker is 30, and second base can be a treacherous position. All he needs to do is look at the recent sequence of Cardinals second basemen to know that an everyday player one year can be on a Minor League contract the next. The guarantee of a 2011 contract outweighed the possibility of making some higher percentage -- if that possibility came attached to a risk of being out of the big leagues.

"I understand the arbitration process, that there's a possibility of going year-to-year and there's always a possibility of making more," Schumaker said. "I get that. My agent gave me everything I needed to know before I made this decision to take a two-year deal. The bottom line is, I'm a husband and a father first. I've got two kids counting on me. Being able to provide them with a house and to go to college is big for me, and that's my No. 1 priority. So having that security, for me, was huge."

One worry Schumaker didn't have was "pricing himself out" of St. Louis. It was a distinct possibility that Schumaker could have had such a good year that the Cardinals would choose not to pay him, and instead trade him or non-tender him. He viewed that as potentially a nice problem to have.

"That's a good thing," he said. "That means you're producing and playing well. If that was the case, then some other team is going to pick you up because you're producing. Any time you produce, you're going to get paid. I understand that arbitration can sometimes price people out. But in that case, that means you're doing well and someone is going to pick you up."

For the club, though, it was a legitimate concern. Schumaker is a valued player not only in the lineup but in the clubhouse. It's one worry off the table if the Cardinals know who their second baseman will be for the next two seasons. And rewarding a highly regarded player was a nice bonus as well.

"I think it meant a lot to him," said general manager John Mozeliak. "If you look at his career, he's been optioned. He's had kind of an up-and-down career. For him to do what he's done the last few years, arbitration would have given him a nice income either way, but he gets that second year and definitely gets that security he never had."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.