The St. Louis Cardinals have announced that RHP Adam Wainwright has signed a 1 year deal to keep him with St. Louis through the 2020 season.
The 38-year-old Wainwright will return for his 16th season with the Cardinals after a solid 2019 campaign. In 31 starts, Wainwright had a 4.19 ERA over 171.2 innings pitched, which was arguably his best season since winning 20 games and finished third in Cy Young voting in 2014. The Cardinals won 19 games behind him, second most of all Cardinals starting pitchers.
While he struggled on the road, Wainwright was dominant in Busch Stadium, posting a 2.56 ERA in 95 innings over 16 starts at home.
He stepped up to another level in the postseason, going 7.2 scores innings against the Braves in the NLDS. He allowed 3 earned runs and struck out 11 in 7.1 innings in his only start against the Nationals in the NLCS, and also pitched 1.2 scoreless innings of relief in what would be the series finale against Washington.
Financial terms of the deal have yet to be reported, but he returned last season on an incentive-laden deal that had a $2 million base salary and he would go on to maximize that contract at $10 million. I don’t expect a much different contract for 2020, except maybe a higher base salary.
The signing of Wainwright solidifies four of the five spots in the Cardinals rotation for 2020 with Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson, and Wainwright. That leaves the final spot likely for Carlos Martinez to return to the rotation.
Selfishly, I’m excited to see Wainwright back with the Cardinals for another year. He is one of my favorite players for a number of reasons. However, I’m also concerned that he should have taken his opportunity to walk away healthy and on a high note after dealing with injury and performance issues in three of the last five seasons. Hopefully he doesn’t come to regret the decision to return.
But back to Wainwright, how often do you get to witness one of the greatest players in franchise history?
While Bob Gibson is clearly the Cardinals’ best pitcher of all time, Wainwright has an argument to be the second best.
He enters the 2020 season ranked fourth in WAR (36.0), fourth in wins (162), sixth in innings pitched (2,103.2), second in strikeouts (1,776), and fifth in games started (316) among Cardinals starting pitchers all time. He is one win behind Bob Forsch for third and four starts behind Bill Doak for fourth.
Returning for another season lines him up to potentially walk away with another all time Cardinals great in Yadier Molina. Molina has suggested that he may retire at the completion of his current contract and this being the final year of the 3 year, $20 million extension he signed on Opening Day 2017, though he has backed off that talk and may be open to playing more years.
Molina and Wainwright have started 278 games as battery-mates, including the postseason, good for sixth all time. Another healthy season together could put them over 300 starts together and would be the fourth pair of battery-mates to reach that mark. For context, he combinations ahead of them had their runs together end in 1975, 1963, 1926, 1967, and 1946, respectively.
The signing of Wainwright isn’t going to move the performance needle that much, in the end. Like I said last winter, Wainwright still has some good left in that right arm. His signing doesn’t even stop the Cardinals from doing anything they weren’t already going to do this winter. I’m exited at the prospect of getting to watch a hitter’s knees buckle at the sight of a Wainwright curve ball for at least one more season.