I can’t believe the reactions from a certain segment of St. Louis Cardinals “fans” who have already panned the team’s re-signing of longtime ace Adam Wainwright, despite the fact that they don’t even know the terms of the deal at this point.
The contract extension was announced Thursday morning. Moments later, Twitter was ablaze with some people bemoaning the signing as a “setback” of some sort and others who predicted the move would be all the Redbirds would do this offseason.
All we know about the contract at this point is that it is heavily incentive-laden. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that it would make sense for both sides to sign a deal that had a low base salary and a high payoff based on innings pitched. It’s all upside for the team. If Wainwright can turn back the clock a couple of years, he’ll be well worth the investment. If he gets hurt and spends most of the year on the disabled list — or if he can’t get things going and decides to retire — the Cardinals will be protected. Please, explain to me what there is to complain about.
To those who say Wainwright will take up a roster spot that could go to a younger player, get a grip. If Wainwright can’t cut it, he’ll be released or he’ll end up back on the 60-day disabled list which will give the team that roster spot. Nothing in life is guaranteed. But this is a sensible gamble. There is nothing going on here that will prevent St. Louis from making other moves to better the team. Not because of payroll limitations. Not because of roster spots. The best players will make the team. If Wainwright isn’t one of them, the club is perfectly entitled to cut ties with him.
But beyond what happens between the lines, where is the respect? Wainwright is one of the very best pitchers in the history of a team that has had some pretty darn good pitchers. According to baseball-reference.com, the pitchers Wainwright is most similar to through his age 36 season include former Cardinals legends Dizzy Dean, Chris Carpenter and Mort Cooper. Non-Redbirds on the list include some pretty spectacular names: Ron Guidry, Orel Hershiser, Mike Cuellar and Bret Saberhagen. In my book, 148 wins in a Cardinals uniform earns Uncle Charlie a chance to finish his career on his terms.
The Cardinals haven’t let sentimentality get in the way of their decisions in the past. This is a team that let Albert Pujols, the best player the team has seen in decades, walk away when it got squishy about committing 10 years to a player in his thirties. So, I feel relatively comfortable that owner Bill DeWitt hasn’t suddenly started passing out cash like it’s candy just to keep up appearances.
The people upset about this deal were probably a lot of the same folks who were outraged that the team inked catcher Yadier Molina to a contract extension, “blocking” Carson Kelly from becoming the next , well, Yadier Molina. Despite their predictions of doom and gloom, Yadi has turned in a pair of All-Star seasons since the extension while Kelly took a huge step backwards, failing to make the big league club in 2018 even as Molina’s understudy. In 35 at-bats over the course of the season, Kelly was a .114 hitter with a .205 on-base percentage and a .114 slugging percentage.
Bottom line, this is a low-risk, high-reward deal. Wainwright deserves the respect to keep wearing the St. Louis uniform if he believes he can still contribute and he’s a great guy to have in the clubhouse to help develop all the young pitching talent the Cardinals are fortunate to have. So quit complaining and give him a chance.