Cardinals Rumors: What are Adam Wainwright’s chances of returning?
Adam Wainwright is no longer certain to return to the St. Louis Cardinals. If he does leave, how could the team look to replace him?
While the St. Louis Cardinals re-signing free-agent catcher Yadier Molina feels like an “inevitability,” the same cannot be said for pitcher Adam Wainwright. The franchise’s chances of retaining the long-time pitcher are “less clear,” according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Molina has always been the most likely to return over Wainwright. Molina, 38, is one of the most difficult players to replace. While he may not be the hitter he once was, he is an elite defensive catcher and is responsible with working together with the pitching staff. It is difficult, if not impossible, for in-house option Andrew Knizner or any free agent to replicate the impact and production that Molina provides (unless they sign J.T. Realmuto, which is not happening).
Wainwright, however, is expendable. While he finished last season with a 4.15 ERA in 65.2 innings, the reality is that he is 39 years old and in the homestretch of his career. Prior to the 2020 season, he had four straight seasons with an ERA above 4.15. It could prove difficult for him to replicate his success from this past season and knowing that the Cardinals may be wise to invest that money on a different pitcher, preferably someone who is younger.
The problem, of course, is that the free-agent market is not exactly saturated with many starting pitching options. Trevor Bauer is the top player on the market and will be well out of the Cardinals’ price range. Jake Odorizzi and Masahiro Tanaka make up the second tier of starters and will likely be too expensive. It leaves Jon Lester and a handful of others as reasonable targets for the Cardinals, though they would be replacing one aging starter with another. Granted, Lester has experience pitching in the National League Central and could help with insight on the Chicago Cubs.
What the Cardinals will ultimately do with the rotation remains a mystery. And if Wainwright doesn’t return, president of baseball operation John Mozeliak will have his work cut out for him to find a capable replacement.