Ace Wainwright, Cardinals agree on one thing: Better to talk now

JUPITER -- Ace starter Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals haven't been able to agree on a new contract yet. But it seems both sides do agree that if they can't something done this spring, hammering out a longterm deal during the season probably isn't in the cards for the pitcher who's free-agent eligible after the year.

"At that point, it's probably going to free agency,'' general manager John Mozeliak acknowledged. "But our hope is to get something done before opening day.''

Wainwright suggested pretty much the same. He said that while the "door will still be open'' to talk during the season if they can't come to agreement during spring, "We don't want a situation where every day it's 'How about this?' or 'How about that?'"

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There's no indication real progress is being made at the moment.

"Not really, there's nothing really pressing,'' said Mozeliak, noting that the door is open to talk, however.

"I'd love to stay, but things have got to work out,'' said Wainwright, who went 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA in 2012, the year after Tommy John surgery. He had two straight top-three Cy Young finishes the year before the surgery, and was 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA in 2010, when he was second.

Both sides have said they won't close the door even after the season begins. But it appears that may be partly for appearances, as the season is serious stuff in St. Louis. Albert Pujols cut off negotiations during spring training two springs ago, while Yadier Molina got his $75-million, five-year deal done in spring.

Wainwright, 31, might be worth nine figures ($100 million) or more, as a free agent, depending on how this season plays out. "He's an innings eater and he's really good. He should get north of $20 million a season,'' one agent (not Wainwright's) said of a free-agent scenario.

At the moment it sounds a bit like each side is waiting for the other to make the bigger move. Wainwright, who will make $13 million on a club option this year, acknowledged that negotiations with a team can be "tricky, dicey.''

"The No. 1 option is, I'd like to see it get done by the start of the season, and the other option is the other way,'' Wainwright said, meaning it doesn't get done. He didn't say too much about in-season negotiations, though while he isn't ruling them out entirely, it's clear that's something he doesn't really relish.

Mozeliak is on the same page. "The way we're approaching it is we're hopeful to try to get something done before the start of the season,'' Mozeliak said. "In-season negotiations can be distracting.''

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