St. Louis Cardinals: Michael Wacha Loses His Arbitration Case

The St. Louis Cardinals received their first win of 2017 by “winning” their arbitration case regarding Michael Wacha’s 2017 salary.

The dispute went to arbitration because the St. Louis Cardinals and Michael Wacha could not come to an agreement over his 2017 season salary. The Cardinals offered $2.775 million while Wacha and his representatives argued for a salary of $3.2 million. The arbitrators ultimately sided with the Cardinals so Wacha will receive $2.775 million this season.

Michael Wacha is in his first year of arbitration eligibility and will be eligible for two more years. The Cardinals had not gone to an arbitration hearing with a player over salary since 1999, but the team decided about a month ago that they would try their luck with Wacha. They also were set to go to arbitration with Carlos Martinez before he signed his multi-year extension.

For the case itself, Wacha was present while his agency argued for their salary request. The Cardinals hired an outside counsel to argue theirs.

“I don’t want to overreact to a win or a loss on this thing,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “I feel like this is just a part of the industry we work in. I don’t want it to be awkward with Michael and I or the team, and I don’t think it will be.”

The Cardinals entered this offseason with an unfamiliar “trial-and-file” philosophy. This means that once the team and player exchange arbitration figures in January, the negotiations ended. However, as we saw with Carlos Martinez, exceptions are made.

The timing of the decision was almost at the same time that the Cardinals also announced that their top prospect pitcher, Alex Reyes, was undergoing an MRI exam for his elbow. Reyes now needs season-ending Tommy John surgery which has placed even more pressure on Michael Wacha. Wacha will now be expected to be part of the starting rotation so long as he is healthy.

Wacha’s mission this offseason was to build up strength in his shoulder to avoid the stress reactions he is prone to. The Cardinals and Wacha are both hopeful that his offseason training can successfully prevent more stress reactions.

The main issue with Wacha’s condition is there doesn’t seem to be a cure quite yet. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, Brandon McCarthy, struggles from the same reactions and hasn’t pitched more than 40 innings since 2014.

“We’ll see how that shakes out, of course,” Mozeliak said. “But clearly, if physically able to, he’ll likely be in the rotation. I’ve always felt like Wacha, given what he’s done for the organization, when right, he’s been very good.”

Wacha wasn’t the only loser on Tuesday. Milwaukee’s Chase Anderson and Arizona’s Taijuan Walker also lost their arbitration cases. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay’s Jake Odorizzi, Toronto’s Marcus Stroman and Houston’s Collin McHugh all won their cases.

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Wacha’s loss is still a gain. He was paid a mere $539,000 in 2016 and will recieve over a $2 million raise. He’s 25 years old and coming off of his worst season, going 7-7 with a career-high 5.09 ERA. In 2015, Wacha went 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA. The St. Louis Cardinals had not gone to an arbitration hearing since Darren Oliver in 1999 where they also won.