The 20 most important Cardinals in 2023: #12 Adam Wainwright
No one could have fathomed this then, but the deal has become one of the most important in Cardinals' history.
The Cardinals were getting the Braves' first-round draft pick from the 2000 MLB Draft in Wainwright for the Cardinals' first-round pick of the 1998 MLB Draft. Drew was anticipated to be one of the best outfielders of the generation, but those feelings fizzled out.
This was before the Internet became as necessary as oxygen, so most Cardinals fans didn't know what the team was getting in Wainwright.
By the fall of 2006, that all changed.
Cardinals reliever Jason Isringhausen was injured, and the team needed a reliever. Wainwright stepped up and became that reliever. Paired with the man who became his lifelong friend, Yadier Molina, Wainwright became the closer the team needed in the playoffs. He finished off the Mets in the NLCS by throwing his devastating 12-6 curve ball to strikeout Carlos Beltran. And then shut down the Detroit Tigers to secure a World Series championship for St. Louis for the first time since 1982.
Wainwright also secured his status as a Cardinals legend. And that wasn't even his first full season with the big league team.
Over the next two decades, Wainwright earned a record of 195-117 with a 3.38 ERA. He started in 390 games and finished 13 games. He had 28 complete games and 11 shutouts. He had three regular-season saves in addition to his four in postseason play. In 2,567.1 innings, he's thrown 2,147 strikeouts.
While he never received a Cy Young Award, he has been a three-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger award winner in 2017, and the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award winner.
In addition to being a fantastic pitcher, he's an outstanding leader in the clubhouse who becomes a magnet for younger players who seek him out for his wisdom and guidance. And then, he's a fantastic human being with all he does through his Big League Impact organization worldwide.
Wainwright plays in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA with teammates Miles Mikolas, Nolan Arenado, and Paul Goldschmidt. He could play against his friend, Molina, who manages Team Puerto Rico.