A King’s Ransom To Wainwright – The Right Deal?
Preliminary reports say that the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright agree to a five year, $97.5M contract that will keep the lanky, upbeat ace in a Cardinal uniform through the 2018 season.
And just like that, the stingy bean-counting Redbirds have jumped into the deep end with the big boys. After spending several years resisting the $20M barrier so brazenly crossed by many foolish franchises, the Cardinals came just short of it ($19.5M annually) while making Wainwright the team’s highest-paid player.
The deal locks up two experienced starters through the 2017 season (Waino and Jaime Garcia) while providing tremendous wiggle room for the burgeoning youngsters elbowing their way onto the team from the minors.
Some analysts sound a bit shocked by the amount of the deal, as if the bar on quality starters hadn’t already been raised to ludicrous extremes. When an inconsistent nutcase like Zack Greinke can make more than $26M a year, Wainwright’s $19.5M annual salary seems downright frugal.
There is certainly room for concern. Wainwright has now endured a career-threatening Tommy John surgery. While that radical procedure is not the death knell it once was, it still casts some doubt about Waino’s long-term durability.
Outside of the 2011 season, however, Wainwright has been a horse. He’s pitched more than 200 innings three times in his five years as a starter, and came very close (198.2 innings) to doing it a fourth time last year. He has challenged for the Cy Young Award twice, coming in third (2009) and second (2010). He also possesses the kind of curve ball that could make God shit his pants. You pay dearly for those kinds of tangible assets.
But Wainwright brings a set of intangibles that meld well with the current culture at Busch Stadium. He’s personable, respectable, honest, helpful, and warm-hearted. Unlike the glowering Chris Carpenter, Wainwright provides a soothing presence and a jovial-but-focused air to the clubhouse. He mixes well with veterans and rookies alike.
The Cardinals clearly value these types of personalities, which is why they fought so hard against their own cautious economics to make this deal happen. They didn’t open the vault for Albert Pujols and his surly, me-first attitude. They didn’t open the vault for David Freese and his destructive party-boy antics (at least not yet). The team is looking to reward the complete package – talented players who are also upstanding, quality men.
And that certainly describes Wainwright, a down-to-earth man with tremendous talent and the desire to win. He has given so much to this franchise already; now he takes his rightful place as our long-term ace and the kind of player forever immortalized in Cardinal lore.
Congratulations, Adam. You earned it.