February 19, 2013
Tuesday, February 19
The spring before a key player’s contract year is prime time for long-term negotiations, and the Hot Stove’s extension burner is predictably heating up. Last April, the Giants came to terms on a six-year, $127.5 million pact with their ace, Matt Cain. Now, their National League Championship Series foes, the Cardinals, are hoping to do the same with theirs.
Cardinals working on long-term deal for Adam Wainwright
The 31-year-old Wainwright, who had been worth at least 4.0 WARP in three of the four seasons preceding his February 2011 Tommy John surgery, bounced back to deliver 198 2/3 innings of 2.4-win work last year. With Kyle Lohse expected to sign elsewhere, Chris Carpenter’s future looking increasingly cloudy, and Jake Westbrook entering the only guaranteed year of a $9.75 million extension that he signed last August, the Cardinals rotation could look entirely different at this time next spring, with a sweeping youth movement potentially in store if Wainwright does not return.
Mozeliak and Jeff Luhnow, who is now general manager of the Astros, assembled perhaps the only farm system in the league with the depth and talent to withstand that sort of overhaul. Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, and Trevor Rosenthal all flashed considerable promise in 2012 and could become rotation fixtures before this season is out. Last year’s first-round pick, Michael Wacha, and 2010 international signee Carlos Martinez are not far behind. And, if all breaks right, as it has with so many of the Cardinals’ other arms, Tyrell Jenkins could be knocking on the door the following year.
Then again, while there might seem to be a force field preventing the TINSTAAPP patrol from penetrating the Gateway Arch, the Cardinals would do well to put a veteran or two around their collection of prospects. Ideally, one of those veterans would be Wainwright, but a couple of significant hurdles must be cleared for the talks between Hammond and Mozeliak to progress.
Strauss noted that Wainwright is angling for a “deal guaranteed for more than five years,” a frightening thought for the Cardinals, who have witnessed firsthand the pitfalls of lucrative commitments to pitchers with Carpenter and Mark Mulder. Although Wainwright’s Tommy John surgery on February 28, 2011, marked the first time that he had gone under the knife, he has a history of elbow trouble that dates back to 2004. The northpaw missed three months in the minors that year while rehabbing a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, and he handled a partial tear of the UCL the same way in 2010, before finally needing surgery to repair it.