While both sides are trying to put a positive spin on things, it's disturbing news that the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright have announced that they have broken off talks about a contract extension.
Wainwright said that the door is still open to talk about a deal before his current contract expires at the end of the 2013 season. But it would seem to be a sign that the sides are far apart to have talks suddenly break off without a deal being reached. If any sort of progress was being made, why shut it down?
Seattle starter Felix Hernandez signed the most lucrative contract for a pitcher in baseball history Tuesday after a delay thanks to concerns about his elbow. That may have influenced what Wainwright is hoping to receive. Hernandez's contract will pay him $175 million over seven years.
St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak, speaking on ESPN Radio Tuesday, said that, despite similar stats, he doesn't consider Wainwright and Hernandez to be "in the same universe" when it comes to their contract situations. Mozeliak noted that the seven-year deal Hernandez singned will end when he is 33. Wainwright's current contract expires when he is 32.
My biggest fear is that Wainwright will get into a situation like the Cardinals had with Pujols where he wants a deal that will extend well past the point that he can be expected to be a productive player. The Cardinals may have a three or four-year extension in mind that would pay Wainwright until he is 35 or so. The player, on the other hand, might feel that this is his last chance to get a mega deal. Being that Wainwright is the top ranked pontential free agent starting pitcher, he may feel that he can push the Cardinals to give him a five or six-year deal.
To his credit, Wainwright did not set a deadline in dealings and said he expects to revisit the contract issues soon. But the Cardinals should not get comfortable with the idea that they're going to have first shot in signing their ace. It often gets to a point that players decide there is no benefit in not going to the open market in effort to try to drive up their price.
While the news that contract talks broke off without success is disturbing, there is still hope. Talks broke off with catcher Yadier Molina last spring before things suddenly came back together and he reached a long term deal.