Unlike the Pujols abomination of a contract, this deal is a great deal for both Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals to make, and should quell any anger about Wainwright’s resigning.
+ $500K for 5 starts
+ $1M for 10 starts
+ $1M for 15 starts
+ $1.5M for 20 starts
+ $2M for 25 starts
+ $2M for 30 starts
Total starter incentives: $8M
These are the largest of the incentives, but that doesn’t make them the ones that I like the least.
What does make these the ones I like the least is the fact that it doesn’t matter how poorly Wainwright performs in those starts so long as he makes it to them. There is much more leeway given to a struggling starter before they are pulled from the rotation than it is to be relegated to not being used in the bullpen.
I don’t think that Wainwright will be able to get to 30 starts this season, but the St. Louis Cardinals have allowed him to start 33 games of 4.62 ERA ball in 2016 and 23 games of 2017, so reaching the 25-start threshold isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Father Time is a rough opponent, and as the fight drags out, the body continues to break down. Even if he is a full-time starter this year, I would be hard pressed to believe that he makes it to more than 20 starts this season.
That would put the incentive at just $4M and the total contract at $6M. Based on his recent performance, some people could still see that as overpaying, but it’s not something that will particularly impact the team or it’s spending this free agency period, so there’s no tangible harm done to the team in making this deal.
I personally would have preferred that the incentives be inning-based as opposed to start-based, but the penalty isn’t anything to be upset about.