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The St. Louis Cardinals' Paul DeJong runs the bases after hitting a solo home run off Reds starting pitcher Rookie Davis in a game last season at Cincinnati. DeJong, a former Illinois State star, signed a $26 million, six year contract with the Cardinals on Monday.

John Minchillo, Associated Press

JUPITER, Fla. — Less than a year after making his big league debut, former Illinois State star Paul DeJong was rewarded with a long-term deal. And that was worth hugs all around.

The shortstop and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed Monday to a $26 million, six-year contract that includes team options for 2024 and 2025.

"It gives me a sense of security, just knowing that I'm going to be here and kind of just confirms my thoughts about wanting to be a Cardinal for my life," DeJong said. "To me to be able to sign a potentially eight-year deal just seems like I'm cementing myself in the Cardinals organization. I don't ever want to leave."

The 24-year-old hugged his parents and grandparents before the news conference to announce the deal.

DeJong made his major league debut last May 28 and hit .285 with a team-high 25 homers and 65 RBIs in 108 games. He was selected by St. Louis from Illinois State in the fourth round of the 2015 draft.

DeJong played only 246 minor league games. Batting mostly third, he hit .298 with eight homers in July.

"As you know, we're committed to winning at the major league level through scouting and player development, and Paul is a great example of this," owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said.

DeJong's deal covers up to four years of arbitration eligibility and the options extend to two years of free agent eligibility.

St. Louis started nine different shortstops over the past 10 opening days, including Pete Kozma (2013), Rafael Furcal (2012), Ryan Theriot (2011) and Khalil Greene (2009).

"My time with the Cardinals, we've always been searching for that shortstop," said John Mozeliak, who has headed the team's baseball operations for 11 years. "This does give us the level of comfort that we have signed someone that we know can play there for a long time."

DeJong is 3 for 14 with a double and two RBIs so far this spring training.

"I'm just really happy about how this is working out and really excited to play Cardinals baseball long term," DeJong said.

St. Louis renewed the contract of outfielder Tommy Pham and agreed to one-year deals with the remainder of its players lacking the necessary service time for arbitration.

Pham and the Cardinals had been unable to agree on a salary for the upcoming season. As a result, the team used its right to set his salary.

Pham will have arbitration rights after this season.


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