Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported the details of the deal via Twitter:
The Cardinals were in a situation where they could have paid too much attention to Wainwright’s 2012 season and let him hit the free-agent market after this year. But the team opted to sign him to a contact that may keep him in St. Louis for the remainder of his career.
Wainwright has been with the Cardinals since arriving in the majors in 2005, and he has turned into one of the best pitchers in baseball. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery two years ago and missed the entire 2011 season.
Unsurprisingly, he wasn’t the same player this past year, just one year removed from the operation. ESPN Stats & Info took note of his drop in production:
The team was smart to see how far the star pitcher had progressed from last season, and was clearly pleased with his spring performances. As CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder notes, “Wainwright is 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 18 strikeouts in 27 innings.”
His stats suggest that his 2011 injury will not continue to hinder him for another season, and the Cardinals will be expecting him to return to the form he was in during his 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
It will be impossible to tell how much his elbow will continue to hinder in 2013 until he gets going, but there have been nothing but positive signs thus far.
Wainwright is clearly the best pitcher on the team’s staff, and if he were to leave as a free agent prior to the 2014 season, St. Louis would have a massive hole to fill at the top of the rotation.
Now, the Cardinals have a reliable veteran presence to lead the staff. However, fans will be reasonably concerned over signing a 31-year-old player to a deal that will last through 2018.
But Wainwright is a sinkerballer, not a power pitcher. He does not have to rely on a fastball in the triple digits to be effective, and instead gets by on his cutters and curveballs.
His style will allow him to remain a top pitcher well into his 30s, and now that the Cardinals have locked him up, all of those productive years will be in St. Louis.
The team needs Wainwright to lead the staff, and this move ensures that he will be there for many more seasons.