When Adam Wainwright went down with an injured elbow -- requiring Tommy John surgery -- Cardinals camp was still recovering from the whirlwind that was the Albert Pujols situation. So it was only natural that some people began to speculate that Wainwright's two-year, $21 million club option after this season could be a way to save money. With the injury, the Cardinals could opt to let Wainwright walk and maybe that would free up enough money to afford Pujols.
It doesn't seem the likeliest of paths, and three "competing" executives told SI.com's Jon Heyman as much. The Cardinals will pick that up and it is a "no brainer" according to one of them (Heyman via Twitter ).
Considering Wainwright's age (29) and the fact that most pitchers eventually come off Tommy John surgery just as strong, I'd tend to agree it's a no-brainer. If Wainwright is back to form by 2013 -- and he should be well before that -- the $12 million he'll make that season will be a bargain. The guy finished in the top-3 of Cy Young voting each of the last two seasons. If you averaged them, his line would be: 20-10, 2.53 ERA, 232 innings, 212 strikeouts, 1.13 WHIP. Come 31 years old, he can easily be in the same form. Also consider Chris Carpenter is probably going to be long gone by then, so the Cards will need an ace.
As for how it affects Pujols, I really don't think it does. Scenarios like these are always far too simplistic. With the kind of money Pujols is going to command on the open market (assuming he even hits it), $21 million over the course of the first two years isn't likely to be a deal-breaker. The Cardinals could back-load the deal if things get to that point. The bigger issues are the money the Cards gave to Matt Holliday ($17 million a year through 2016) and filling out a roster around Pujols and Holliday, if they're able to keep Pujols.
It's pretty likely the Pujols free agency and Wainwright option are only remotely related because the Cardinals are deciding on each. Otherwise, leave them separate.
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