Extending Wainwright In The Wake Of The Greinke Contract
News came late yesterday that the free-wheeling Dodgers, flush with television money, signed Oompa-Loompa lookalike Zack Greinke for six years and $147M actual dollars. That translates to an astonishing, hard-to-justify annual average value of $24.5M per season. No word on whether the contract includes a therapist to help deal with Greinke’s mental issues.
The contract spells potential trouble for the Cardinals. Their ace-in-waiting Adam Wainwright approaches free agency at the end of the 2013 season, and the team has already shown an aversion to tossing big money at anybody (remember Albert Pujols, anyone?), let alone a pitcher.
The real problem with extending Waino in the wake of this ridiculous Greinke contract is the fact that Wainwright has been BETTER then Greinke over the totality of their respective careers. Look at these numbers:[table “8” not found /]
Even more important is the fact that Wainwright, tutored under Chris Carpenter, is a stable, team-leading personality. Greinke, meanwhile, is a social anxiety basket case who will likely have future problems at the media epicenter of a high-profile team. Good luck with that, Dodger fans!
So what does the Greinke contract predict about Wainwright’s future in St. Louis? It’s difficult to say; Waino has been quiet about his future prospects. Given what we know about his personality, money and adulation don’t motivate him the way they tempted Pujols last year. However, it would be insane to expect Wainwright to give the Cardinals a $10M annual hometown discount.
Many writers have suggested that the Cardinals will pay Wainwright $20M a season. I find that hard to believe. A pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery carries certain career risks, regardless of the quality of that player. Are the Cardinals really in a position to sink more than $120M on six years of questions about Wainwright’s health and stability?
I suspect that the fans need to come to grips with the idea of losing Wainwright. The Cardinals are in an excellent position to replace Waino with young, healthy power arms in 2014 (and beyond) for significantly less money. As the team showed last winter with Pujols, they are fully prepared to face down expensive free agents and walk away while winning the public relations battle afterwards.
Given the strength of the minor league system and the lack of Dodger-like television money, I would be surprised if Wainwright received more than $15M a year from the Cardinals. Here’s the real question: is Wainwright willing to discount his services that much to stay in St. Louis?