Adam Wainwright is continuing his career, as the Cardinals announced this afternoon that he’ll be back for a 19th season with the club. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported Wainwright was in agreement on a one-year contract extension. Financial terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed. Wainwright is an Aegis Sports Management client.
Wainwright’s return puts to rest any questions whether he might join a pair of Cardinals icons in hanging up their spikes. Longtime battery mate Yadier Molina and Cardinals legend Albert Pujols each announced before this past season that 2022 would be their final playing years. There had been plenty of speculation the 41-year-old Wainwright would call it quits, too. Instead, he’ll be back on the Busch Stadium mound.
The right-hander pitched to a 3.71 ERA across 191 2/3 innings for the Cardinals this season. It was yet another reliable season for the veteran, who made 32 starts for the second-straight season. His results did dip a little from 2021, when he posted a 3.05 ERA and finished seventh in NL Cy Young voting. However, that year was helped out somewhat by a .256 opponents BABIP, and his FIP came in at exactly 3.66 in both 2021 and 2022. He did experience a dip in velocity on his fastball from 89.3 mph to 88.1 mph, though, and his strikeout percentage fell to 17.8%, down from 21% in 2021.
Of course, Wainwright has never thrived on a power arsenal. He’s succeeded into his 40’s thanks to excellent control and a knack for keeping hitters off balance with his trademark curveball. This year’s 6.7% walk rate wasn’t far off the prior season’s 6% mark. Wainwright also led all qualified starters in called-strike percentage, compensating for a lack of whiffs by freezing opponents by mixing his pitches inside the strike zone.
Wainwright’s re-signing solidifies the team’s rotation heading into the off-season. Miles Mikolas is signed through 2023, while mid-season trade acquisition Jordan Montgomery is arbitration-eligible for the final time, and both figure to be rotation mainstays. The backend of the rotation still has some question marks, though. Injuries contributed to Steven Matz struggling in his first season in St Louis, but he’s under contract for three more seasons and should at least have an opportunity to start the season in the rotation. Jack Flaherty is under control via arbitration for one more year, and while he’s also had injury problems for a while now, he figures to have a shot in the rotation if healthy.
With the uncertainty surrounding Matz and Flaherty and the potential free agent departure of Jose Quintana, St. Louis could look into fortifying by adding another rotation arm at the back end. The bigger priority, however, seems to be on the position player side. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters this morning the club would look externally for catching help to replace Molina. The team is also hopeful of their chances of retaining star third baseman Nolan Arenado, who’ll have to decide whether to opt out of the final five years and $144MM remaining on his deal.
It’s presently unknown how much Wainwright will make next season, although he’s coming off a one-year, $17.5MM salary. Mozeliak suggested the team planned to raise its payroll from this year’s approximate $155MM Opening Day mark.
On a more personal note, Wainwright’s return means he’s likely to reach the 200-win milestone for his career. Owner of 195 career wins, he’ll have a chance to surpass Jesse Haines’ 210 wins for second on the Cardinals all-time leaderboard.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
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