Adam Wainwright & Other Similarly Priced Players

The Cardinals will have the option of voiding Adam Wainwright's 2012 and 2013 options after the coming season, since he'll still be on the disabled list recovering from Tommy John surgery. Though the two options, which are worth a combined $21MM, became guaranteed when Wainwright finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting last fall, the Cardinals will have the choice of setting the right-hander loose on the free agent market because of a clause in his contract.

Barring unexpected setbacks, it appears likely that the Cardinals will exercise Wainwright's options. They'll want to bid on Albert Pujols and address other needs after the season, but you can't sign ace pitchers for $21MM. Here's a look at what teams have bought with $17-22MM, starting on January 1st, 2008:

The list includes some quality players, but they don't compare with Wainwright, one of the best pitchers in the league. The right-hander averaged 232 innings, 212 strikeouts and a 2.53 ERA from 2009-10 and is still just 29. Considering what $21MM or so buys on the free agent market, it's hard to imagine St. Louis obtaining anything more valuable than Wainwright's age-30 and 31 seasons for that sum.

Contract info courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.