St. Louis Cardinals: Breaking down the incentive-laden Wainwright deal
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.
Finishing games incentives
+ $500K for 25 games finished
+ $500K for 30 games finished
+ $600K for 35 games finished
+ $600K for 40 games finished
+ $600K for 45 games finished
+ $600K for 50 games finished
+ $600K for 55 games finished
Total games finished incentive: $5M
This is the best incentive for both sides, as the fulfillment of it will mean Wainwright is good enough to finish games and he will be making money very similar to what he would as a starter. On the other hand, the St. Louis Cardinals would be blessed with the return one of the most fearless closers they’ve ever had.
The incentives are built so that the total relief incentives and the total starter incentives are equal, but there’s one major difference.
It will be much easier for Wainwright’s body to last through 60 relief appearances and 55 games finished than it would through 30 starts, so while the starter incentives are more expensive as he accumulates more starts, it will be much harder for him to achieve than rounding out the relief appearances.
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As I mentioned, it is a bit less player-friendly in that much of the relief based incentives rely on Wainwright finishing a considerable number of games. With Jordan Hicks on the horizon, it may be difficult for Wainwright to reach the games-finished incentive even if he is somehow performing better than Hicks. This makes it less appealing for Wainwright to stay in the bullpen if he isn’t the closer, but staying in the bullpen would make it easier for him to remain healthy.
Putting a bit more of the incentive money from the games-finished incentives to the gamesrelieved incentive would have allowed Wainwright to feel less pressure pitching in a setup or complimentary role in the bullpen, but I don’t think he particularly minds the loss of a couple million dollars of incentives this late in his career after coming off of a $97.5M contract.
Another possibility is that Wainwright could try to spend some time starting and some time relieving next year. This would make it even less likely that he hits the more expensive starting incentives and hit even the bottom of the relief incentives.
Even if he gets to 30 starts and 35 games finished, which is as far I could possibly see an effective Wainwright going, the total contract would only end up be $10.1M. At that point, if he was that involved within the pitching structure of the team, paying that kind of money will more likely than not have already proven to be worth it.
It’s difficult for me to be upset with this deal as a whole because it’s the closest thing to a “pay for performance” contract that we have seen. It allows the player to earn his money that season as opposed to being paid for past performance while minimizing the risk of overpaying for a rough season. It’s no doubt a win-win for both Wainwright and the Cardinals.
What do you think about this deal? Do you think it will allow the Cardinals to be flexible with Wainwright, or will his age be too much to overcome? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.