Now that the St Louis Cardinals have signed Yadier Molina for 2022, will they soon do the same with Adam Wainwright?
The St. Louis Cardinals and 10-time All-Star catcher Yadier Molina are in agreement on a one-year, $10 million contract for the 2022 season, which will be his 19th with the only franchise he’s ever known. Fans, teammates, and the front office are all happy to know this team icon will be back for, as president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said, Molina’s “final season.”
The question now turns to whether St. Louis will make a similar signing of their long-time rotation anchor, Adam Wainwright, who has been nearly as good as he’s ever been in this, his age-39 season.
Similar to Molina, Wainwright has never played for another major-league team, though he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the amateur draft back in 2000. He was dealt to St. Louis in December of 2003, and the next two seasons at Triple-A Memphis, Wainwright was…okay, going 14-14 with a 4.65 ERA before pitching two innings with the big league club at the end of 2005 and surrendering three runs.
In 2006, however, Wainwright immediately began his ascent up the charts of all-time great Cardinals pitchers. Coming out of the bullpen all season, he closed out the Redbirds’ Game 7 National League Championship Series victory over the Houston Astros with that 12-to-6 curveball Carlos Beltran still hasn’t decided whether to swing at. And of course, there was a World Series title soon to follow.
Moving into the starting rotation almost exclusively thereafter, Wainwright has been a workhouse most of the time and injured occasionally. His peak was the 2009-2013 period, with an interruption in 2011 due to Tommy John surgery. During the four-year stretch surrounding that lost season, he threw over 900 innings with a cumulative 2.95 ERA and finished in the top-3 in Cy Young award voting each year but never taking home the hardware.
Several years later, Wainwright is no longer at his peak, but he’s been an absolute beast for the Cardinals this year. A 3.10 ERA, 12 wins, and a 124 ERA+ with 150 strikeouts in 162-2/3 innings to date? Who would have ever expected that? Well, probably Wainwright, Molina, and the most optimistic of fans, but that might be it. (Isn’t it great when faith is rewarded?)
Given his lights-out performance and his importance to the team – both now and over the last couple of decades – if Wainwright is interested, another one-year deal seems very doable. Something on the order of $12 million, perhaps with some additional incentives that could bump it to around $15 million, would be completely justified.
Wainwright turns 40 on August 30th. Maybe a new contract for next season will be his birthday present from the team. He certainly deserves it.