14-13 with a nearly 4 ERA and 1.24 WHIP gets you 97 million dollars?
Jay Lenno says "I've GOT to get into pitching!"
Let's get three things out on the table before we put the scalpel to this contract:
1) Adam Wainwright is good dude. He's the kind of guy that you want as a face of your baseball team. He's easy to market, popular with the fan base and has a rare thing in professional sports: a non-offensive, but totally likable personality.
2) Our longstanding feeling on baseball contracts hasn't changed. Who gives a rip what the Cardinals are paying for players. As long as they're winning, it's not our job to pay the bills. Ticket prices, cable TV prices and beer prices are still going up, no matter what. (Ask Pirate fans). So playing accountant is silly. The Cardinals are going to make a profit no matter what the next 5 years.
3) Coming back off Tommy John surgery in 2011 made Wain-O less effective than he normally would have been. We'll take this assumption at face value, since there is no way to know for sure… but it is totally plausible.
So reading the reaction around the web seems to be about 80% positive on the signing. And the biggest consensus plus seems to be Wainwright is now the staff anchor that will Shepard in the youth movement (Jenkins, Wacha, Miller, etc al) and be the guy that teaches young prospects how to become big league stars.
The Cardinals better get way more than that for almost 9 figures.
This contract puts Wainwight in the top 10 of all MLB pitching contracts. A list that includes 2 pitchers that everyone can agree are "worth it" (Sabathia and Verlander).
Like it or not, the Cardinals limit their budget yearly. We know this as fans, and generally accept it. But now, even if the contract ceiling is raised over the next 5 years, you can expect Wainwright's contract to eat 15% to 20% of the overall player spend for the team.
And even more so for a player that is coming off a major surgery and hasn't been All-Star caliber since 2010.
Again, refer to point 3 above. We HOPE that Wainwright returns to ace form. We don't KNOW if he will or not. If he doesn't regain at least 90% of his play from 2010 and prior, this contract is going to be an albatross for the Cardinals.
Candidly, I'm surprised this deal got done.
I know that Wainwright and his agent said they wouldn't negotiate during the season. That's just not true. If the Cardinals wanted to make an offer during the middle of the season, they'd do so to Wainwright's agent. And if it was this offer, pending on how the first 2-3 months of the season went, I think they'd take it.
They might add on a few million if he starts out strong. Maybe drop a few million off it if he started out rough. But it'd probably be in the 90-105 million range.
But by inking the deal know, we're in the midst of a very expensive craps roll. This isn't Holliday. This isn't Molina. Heck, this isn't even Pujols. This is a huge investment in a player that was not available in 2011 and often times not good in 2012. (Dirty little fact? Cardinals won the World Series the year he didn't get rocked in the playoffs. 7.88 ERA 4 IP each outing in the NLDS. A very nice game in the NLCS, though, if you want to be more optimistic).
Again, it's the Cardinals money. They'll be fine. But they could have waited to see how the beginning of this season broke. It wouldn't answer every question, but at least it would be a piece of mind.
But if Wainwright is going to be the reason the Cardinals can't get a middle infielder, or any other glaring need, then he's going to have to be an All-Star caliber starter that comes up big in the big games.
He can do it. I want him to do it.
Cheers to Wainwright. Hopefully he'll buy us all a beer when he sees us out. The weight of a huge contract is a relief for some and a scarlet letter for others (hello there, Mr. Zito. Meet Mr. Santana). Let's hope our buddy Adam is ready to be viewed through a whole new spectrum.