Monthly Archives: March 2011

March UCB Roundtable: Weigh in on Wainwright

Once again, it’s time for the United Cardinal Bloggers to get together for another roundtable discussion. Today is my day to pose the question to the troops…so here it is:

Time to shove all your chips to the middle of the table. Adam Wainwright’s injury and surgery guarantees he will be on the DL at the end of the year and, consequently, his options for 2012 and 2013 are no longer automatic. But Wainwright is still young (turns 29 in August), and has a lot of career left after rehabbing. From the position of what’s best for the team, what should the Cards do with Wainwright from a contract perspective (pick up options but that’s all; pick up options and attempt to add years; decline options and try to sign an extended deal; decline options and let him walk) and, if they keep him, from a role perspective (give him 15 months to heal and let him start after 06/01/2012; bring him back in 12 months as the closer for 2012 then go back to a starter for 2013)?
 
“The one thing that they can’t do is let him go to free agency.  I don’t care that he’s hurt, the odds are that he’s going to come back at the same level in the next couple of years and he’s at a pretty good price.  If nothing else, they need to pick up the options at the end of the year.  Hopefully, though, they’ll do something where he gets a smaller salary the next couple of years with some incentive clauses and then a third year that is more in line with the market.  That way they keep him under control but can hedge their risks a little bit.” – Daniel Shoptaw, C70 at the Bat

 

“I’m already on record as stating that I’m fine with the team picking up the options as a way of sending a couple different messages.  Message 1 is that the team has faith that he’ll be back, and the team takes care of its own.  That message (loyalty) won’t be lost on a certain guy at first base, and it won’t be lost on other players around the league, either.  Message 2 is that a reduced base salary plus incentives will nearly be the $9M Waino would be guaranteed to make in 2012 anyway.  Why not just guarantee the money and take the pressure off Waino to earn it all by spring training next year?  He’s already earned his place on the team, so don’t risk pushing the guy away, and tell him that his name is on the 25-man roster in black ink.  Toss in the $12M in 2013 for good measure, because he’ll be back with a vengence by then.   
 
If the team wants to hedge, then I understand, but this is the same team that is paying Lohse $11.875M both this season and next.  Wainwright has already been way more valuable than that.  Even coming off of Tommy John surgery, Waino is a far better investment than Lohse ever was.  I know that I’d buy stock.” – Dennis Lawson, Pitchers Hit Eighth
 
“If there is one player on the Cardinals roster that the front office needs to go all in over, it is Adam Wainwright.  I would like to see them restructure his existing contract to extend it a few years, while he is out of pocket.   Wainwright has become the pitcher that we all hoped he would be, and it is now time to lock him down for his prime years.  The mentoring opportunity for some young pitching prospects like Shelby Miller are too valuable to leave to chance – lock him up.

At this point, Tommy John surgery is not something scary that goes bump in a night.  The rehab timetable and general prognosis for recovery are well known, and there is a lot of experience with it on the Cardinals roster right now.

I would let him do his normal recovery and start working him in as a starter in 15 months.  Don’t even mess with the idea of turning him into a closer.

If you want to mess with anybody in the closer role for 2012, it might be his mentor, Chris ‘Old School’ Carpenter.” – Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner

 
“Assuming that Wainwright returns for most of next season, the double option on his existing contract is still team-friendly. I agree with Dennis that the Cardinals should therefore exercise it — but only because it would be a smart move for the team, not because it is necessarily a sign of loyalty (though if it’s taken that way, so much the better) or because it will somehow convince Albert Pujols to stay (because it won’t). 
Although Wainwright stands a good chance of returning to his old form, I’d hold off on restructuring or extending the contract until after next season because of the risk.” – Matthew Phillip, Fungoes
As always, great feedback from the UCB crew. Personally, I believe the Cardinals should explore an extension with Wainwright. The 2012 and 2013 options are worth $9 million and $12 million, respectively. Both would be a bargain for a healthy Wainwright, to be sure. But what if he isn’t ready to start at the beginning of 2012? The generally accepted timetable for pitchers to return from Tommy John surgery is 12 months for relievers and 15 months for starters, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the earliest he could return is June 2012. With that in mind, I think the Cardinals should decline the options but sign Wainwright to two years (at the same $9 and $12 million salaries) plus another option or two with similar triggers. This would give the Cards a couple more of Wainwright’s prime years yet still protect them from the injury risks. As for next year, with Ryan Franklin’s contract up, I think the Cardinals should talk to Wainwright about coming back to the team as the closer. If he did it all year, he could then prepare for 2013 (and beyond) as a starter but still contribute for all of 2012 in what will be an area of need. Maybe he can beat the odds and return as a starter in 12 months. But should he? It’s been said before that starters sometimes need two full years before they feel totally back to normal. Why take that chance with the team’s ace?
 
–Chris

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