|Pretty soon Adam Wainwright will be able to afford all the sunglasses. (US Presswire)|
The Cardinals have gone into each of the last two seasons with one of their most important players coming up on free agency. Two years ago it was Albert Pujols, who refused to talk about a new contract once spring training opened. Last year it was Yadier Molina, who did not set a deadline and eventually agreed to a new contract in early March. This year it will be Adam Wainwright.
Wainwright, 31, will earn $12 million in 2013 after pitching to a 3.94 ERA in 32 starts last season. That doesn't seem like anything special for a guy who posted a 2.68 ERA from 2008-2010, but we'll cut him some slack after missing the entire 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery. While at the team's Winter Warm-Up caravan this weekend, Wainwright and GM John Mozeliak discussed the right-hander's expiring contract. Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the details...
“It's a little more open-ended,” Mozeliak said (referring to a potential deadline for talks). “It doesn't look like we've had any dialogue to this point (with) any lines drawn in the sand. We'll see the next four weeks and see where we go.”
“I'm in a different place now,” Wainwright explained Saturday. “The first contract is real important to players (to) get some security, peace of mind. It was all a new thing for me. Those kind of things I was worried about back then, I don't really worry about those any more.”
Wainwright acknowledged the two sides discussed a contract extension last summer, but he decided to postpone talks to avoid the mid-season distraction. “I liked where it was headed ... I did," he made sure to add. If nothing else, he seems to be very open to the idea of staying in St. Louis long-term.
The Cardinals have an enviable amount of young pitching, a group that is highlighted by right-handers Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, and Trevor Rosenthal. All four saw time in the big leagues last season, so the club has some backup plans waiting in the wings. At the same time, Chris Carpenter is 37 years old and Jaime Garcia has battled arm problems in recent years. Young pitchers tend to fizzle out themselves as well, plus there's no such thing as too much depth. Losing someone of Wainwright's caliber would definitely hurt.
Contract talks between the Cardinals and Wainwright will probably start somewhere around Josh Beckett territory (four years, $68 million) and approach Matt Cain territory (five years, $112.5 million). Wainwright is a bit older than those two were when they signed their contracts, but baseball is flush with money and aces with track records tend to get paid handsomely on the open market. There certainly seems to be a desire by both parties to get a new deal done before free agency next winter.
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