Earlier today, it was announced that longtime St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright signed a one-year contract extension to return to the team for the 2022 season. Per Jon Heyman, Wainwright’s new contract will pay him $15 million. Before the 2021 season, Wainwright signed a one-year extension that paid him $8 million, so he’s getting a nice raise for the 2022 season.
Wainwright was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2000, but he was traded to the Cardinals before the 2003 season. Wainwright made his Major League debut in 2005 with the Cardinals and has been a key part of their pitching staff since. Wainwright has pitched the sixth-most innings (2,375.2), has the third most pitcher wins (184), and is second among all pitchers in fWAR (45.0) in Cardinals history.
Across 206.1 innings in 2021, Wainwright has a spectacular 3.05 ERA and 3.8 fWAR which will certainly earn him some top 10 NL Cy Young votes. Although they are still respectable numbers, Wainwright’s 3.85 xERA, 3.65 FIP, 3.86 xFIP, and 4.12 SIERA indicate that he hasn’t pitched as well as his 3.05 ERA suggests. Nontheless, Wainwright has still been one of the better pitchers in the Major Leagues this season especially considering he’s pitched the second most innings in the league in his age 39/40 season. Even with all of that said, Wainwright’s peripherals do suggest that he is likely due for some regression next season.
In addition to his peripherals, another reason to believe that regression is coming for Waninwright is that the Cardinals have a whopping 25, I repeat, 25(!!!) OAA when he pitches. This is by far the most OAA a pitcher’s defense has provided them as the next highest OAA a team provided their pitcher is 9. When Kwang-Hyun Kim — who has pitched the second-most innings for the Cardinals this season (104.2) — pitches the Cardinals have 3 OAA. If Kim had pitched as many innings as Wainwright and the Cardinals defense played at the same rate as they have when he pitches, the Cardinals would have just under 6 OAA when Kim pitches. It is definitely fair to assume the Cardinals will still be above average defensively when Wainwright pitches next year, but not to the extend that they’ve been this season.
I would give the Cardinals a B for extending Wainwright. Although I don’t think he will have an ERA in the low threes again next season, I think he will be able to provide durable innings to an around 4 ERA, which is still solid. Personally, I think the $15 million the Cardinals spent on Wainwright could’ve been better used in other areas, but the team still has plenty of money to spend so it’s not a big deal.
In regards to his extension, Wainwright said “I understand that I’m in a very, very, very good situation here. My family loves being here. I love being a part of this team, I love wearing these birds on the bat, I love that. I love representing St. Louis, and I feel like it’s home for me now. Leaving is going away from home.” Ethically speaking, extending Wainwirght (and Yadier Molina a few weeks ago) is absolutely the right thing to do. Wainwright’s extension is definitely justifiable as he has won the World Series a couple times for the organization, stayed loyal, and has proved he still has some gas left in the tank. Wainwright will start the NL Wild Card game on Wednesday, hoping to extend the Cardinals’ 2021 season to at least the NLDS.