Putting aside the prospects of the upcoming season, the Cardinals may have other problems because of the Adam Wainwright situation.
The Birds hold a pair of options on their co-ace that looked like no-brainers. As a matter of fact, there would have been no decision to make had the lanky hurler remained healthy. His option vested with his top five Cy Young finish in 2010. But the fine print of the agreement gave the Cardinals an out if Waino finished the 2011 season on the disabled list...
If suspicions that he needs Tommy John surgery are true, Wainwright will undoubtedly end 2011 on the DL. And he could miss a sizable chunk in 2012, too. So, are the Cardinals going to pick up his options out of the goodness of their hearts and pay a pitcher tens of millions of dollars when they don't know if he'll be able to make a significant contribution for three-fourths of the time in question?
I doubt it.
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The Birds could ask Wainwright to renegotiate, perhaps taking less money in 2012 in exchange for the security of a guaranteed deal. But I wonder if he would go for that when he could collect a check in 2011 and then hit the free market in 2012 to sign wherever he wants...
I think Wainwright enjoys being a Cardinals. But I don't doubt that he might like to go back and play for his original team, the Braves. I also don't doubt, with the success rate for Tommy John patients, that other teams would be very interested in bidding for Wainwright should he hit the market. The Yankees are one team that has expressed interest in the St. Louis starter in the past.
I hope something can be worked out. Wainwright has incredible poise to go with a knockout arsenal, and he represents an important span that connects the bridge that went from Darryl Kile to Matt Morris to Chris Carpenter to the future.