The deal is reported to be for five years at a total of $97.5 million.
Wainwright, now 31, will be signed through age 36 under the new extension, which will begin in 2014. In his first season returning from Tommy John surgery, Wainwright went 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA.
He started the season off shaky, giving up five home runs in April but mellowed out as the season went on. He posted a 3.28 ERA in the second half (2.27 in September).
No, he wasn’t perfect in 2012, but he was moving in the right direction. The better he looked in 2013, the higher the price tag would be in the offseason. The Cardinals knew that and so did Wainwright.
From the Cardinals perspective, getting the deal done now was the right move. Waiting until after the season could have cost the Cardinals as much as an additional $15 million over the course of the deal.
To a team that is literally getting younger by the year, the veteran presence Wainwright offers plays a huge role in their overall success.
He’s respected, well-liked by his teammates and is a good influence to have around the clubhouse.
Aside from that, Wainwright’s role as anchor to a youthful rotation will be more vital over the next three seasons than ever before. As young arms with bright futures begin learning the ropes, the Cardinals will need someone who can consistently eat innings and get wins. At the same time, he can teach those young guys what it takes to be a professional in this league with class, patience and perseverance.
Wainwright is that guy, and the Cardinals know that.
The 6’7” right-hander, who still sports one of the nastiest curveballs in baseball, can consistently throw 200 innings per season with about 200 strikeouts. That’s what the Cardinals want from him: consistency.
In the second half of 2012, Wainwright gave up fewer hits, runs, walks, doubles, triples and held opposing batters to a .240 average—some 35 points lower than in the first half.
Concerns regarding whether he would fully recover from his operation can, in my opinion, go by the wayside.
There’s no doubt Wainwright could have drawn a bigger payday had he gone to free agency but with that come risks. First and foremost is the risk of an injury this year. The extra $10 million to $12 million he could have earned simply isn’t worth the risk of losing the $97 million he was offered.
There’s also the risk of losing the security of home. Wainwright loves St. Louis, and St. Louis loves him. It’s a great baseball town.
Taking a mega-deal from somewhere like New York or Los Angeles doesn’t offer that security.
He wanted St. Louis, and they wanted him. The Cardinals get the leader and staff ace that they want to keep, and Wainwright gets to sign the largest deal ever offered to a pitcher by the organization.
With Wainwright locked up, the Cardinals are now able to build for the coming years without having the cloud of a massive deal in the near future hanging over their heads.
In the end, this deal makes sense for everyone involved.
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