St. Louis Cardinals ace starting pitcher Adam Wainwright announced Tuesday that contract talks between himself and the Cardinals have stalled for the time being. It’s not time to panic that Wainwright won’t come back, but the result wasn’t pretty the last time contract talks between the Cardinals and a superstar fell apart in spring training.
That last time was in 2011 when Albert Pujols arrived at spring training in Jupiter, Fla., with one year left on his contract with the Cardinals.
“I have made it very clear that I do not want any of this to be a distraction during the season, and it was for that reason, that we came up with a deadline,” Pujols said Feb. 16, 2011, the day contract talks officially ended until after the season.
Wainwright has not set that type of deadline, but time is becoming precious for him and the Cardinals to hammer out a new contract before the season starts.
Wainwright’s biggest concern is the same reason Pujols wanted to set a deadline in his negotiations: He doesn’t want the contract situation to become a distraction.
“There does need to be some urgency on both sides just to try to get this done if it’s going to happen before the season starts, just for peace of mind for everyone,” Wainwright said earlier in the week.
Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t adding up no matter how much both sides want to get a deal done. Sound familiar?
Pujols and the Cardinals both suggested they wanted to get a deal done quickly so Pujols would remain with the Cardinals for the remainder of his career, but it didn’t happen. Pujols is now set to enter the second year of his 10-year, $240-million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
As was the case with Pujols two years ago, Wainwright’s value is something of a mystery right now. He’s a Cy Young Award-caliber pitcher who is unquestionably going to be the ace of the Cardinals’ pitching staff this season. But, he’s also a 31-year-old pitcher who has already missed an entire season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
Pujols was considered the greatest player in the game heading into the 2011 season. He had just come off of a season when he hit .312 with 42 homeruns and 118 RBIs, but people still asked the same questions about Pujols as they are currently asking about Wainwright.
Pujols was 31 years old, and a long-term deal could create many problems for a team if he gets hurt or simply doesn’t produce nearly as much as he ages. That’s the great unknown that factors into all contract negotiations with star players.
Still, the Cardinals would do well to sign Wainwright before the season starts. They signed catcher Yadier Molina to a five-year, $75-million contract before the 2012 season, nobody said a word about contract negotiations for the rest of the season and Molina had the best season of his career.
Pujols and the Cardinals didn’t get a deal done a year earlier, and Pujols had the worst season of his career. That was the first time he hadn’t hit at least .300 or had at least 100 RBIs.
Wainwright’s value will also likely increase, possibly dramatically, if he has a stellar 2013 season. The price of pitching rises exponentially each offseason, and there is little doubt the asking price for good pitchers during next year’s free-agent period will again produce eye-popping contract numbers.
These are anxious times as the Cardinals and another star player battle through contract negotiations in February. And with each passing day, the situation only gets scarier with the possibility Wainwright might not be a Cardinal beyond 2013.