When the Cardinals re-signed veteran righty Adam Wainwright over the winter, there was no shortage of second-guessing. But the move has worked out for all involved, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Wainwright will max out his incentives package when he makes his thirtieth start on the year this evening.
The contract came with just $2MM in guaranteed money — a reflection of Wainwright’s subpar output in the preceding campaigns. It called for an array of bonuses tied to the volume of work he performed as a starter and/or reliever. As it turns out, Wainwright earned and held a rotation job all year long while only spending a brief stretch on the injured list. He was thereby able to tack on a hefty $8MM to his earnings for the season, the final $2MM of which is earned with tonight’s outing.
Wainwright says it all turned out as hoped:
“They would be incentives that if I hit that would be great for the team and they would be glad to pay me for it. And if it didn’t hit I didn’t deserve it based on what I’ve done the last couple of years. … That’s what I expected to do. It’s good to come through on things you expect to do.”
There’s no doubt the St. Louis organization is pleased as well. Wainwright didn’t just fill innings, he did so with aplomb. Through 162 1/3 innings, he carries a 3.83 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 and a 49.3% groundball rate. ERA estimators view him as much the same pitcher he was in the prior few seasons — as a roughly mid-4.00 true-talent performer — but Wainwright finally had a bit of good fortune in a memorable campaign that could be his last.
It remains to be seen whether Wainwright will look to extend his career past 2019. It seems reasonable to presume the veteran will want to return to St. Louis if he does desire to continue pitching. From the team’s perspective, it’s not hard to imagine a return again making sense in some scenarios. For now, all involved are surely content with focusing on the upcoming postseason run.
The Cards opened the present campaign with $162MM and change on their MLB payroll. Despite foregoing significant in-season acquisitions, they’ll end with over $170MM owing to the extra cash due to Wainwright. Just how high the tab has gone is hard to say, but it seems unlikely that the Cards will reach their end-of-year payroll highpoint ($182.7MM in 2017). Regardless, it’s money well spent for a club that’s headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.