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 Giants signed Aubrey Huff to a two-year, $22MM deal after he led them to their first World Championship in San Francisco. He hit .290/.385/.506 in his contract year.
- The Dodgers signed Huff's teammate, Juan Uribe, to a three-year, $21MM deal this offseason. The infielder hit .248/.310/.440 with 24 home runs last year.
- The Indians signed Kerry Wood to a two-year, $20.5MM deal after he posted a 3.26 ERA, 11.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 for the Cubs in 2008. Wood saved 34 games that year in his first full season as a closer.
- Not long after Wood finalized his deal, the Nationals signed Adam Dunn to a two-year, $20MM deal. The slugger was coming off of a 40 homer season and went on to average 38 round trippers per year with the Nats, posting a .910 OPS in D.C.
- The Giants signed Edgar Renteria to a two-year, $18.5MM deal after a 2008 season in which he hit .270/.317/.382 for the Tigers.
- The Marlins signed John Buck to a three-year, $18MM deal after he hit .281/.314/.489 and reached the 20-homer plateau for the first time in his career.
- The Phillies signed Placido Polanco to a three-year, $18MM deal after he hit .285/.331/.396 for the Tigers and won a Gold Glove.
- The Angels committed $17.5MM for two years of Brian Fuentes after he saved 30 games and posted a 2.73 ERA with 11.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 for the 2008 Rockies.
- The Dodgers spent $17.5MM for three years of Casey Blake after he posted an .808 OPS and hit 21 homers in 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.