There are at least two other pitchers that had to wake up happy on Wednesday morning over the new six-year, $144 million offer that Cole Hamels has accepted from the Philadelphia Phillies. One is Zack Greinke of the Brewers, who becomes the top free agent target to hit the market this fall.
The other is St. Louis Cardinal Adam Wainwright. Though the 30-year-old (he turns 31 on August 30th) has another year-plus on his current contract, seeing the prices for pitching escalate across the game has to make him feel very good.
With Chris Carpenter’s distinguished career nearing its end, soon Wainwright will be the sole anchor of the Cardinals staff. As good as the prospects coming up through the minor league system are expected to be, the staff needs a leader.
There seems no doubt that Wainwright is the man. The only question is how much money it will take to retain his services. Specifically, will the Cardinals pay $20 million per season?
Let’s look at some recent extensions of pitchers’ contracts across MLB.
|Pitcher||Date||Yrs||Guarantee||AAV||Start yr||Start age||End yr||End age||NTC||Career WAR||Notes|
|Cole Hamels||7/25/2012||6||$144MM||$24MM||2013||29||2018||35||partial||25.7||7th yr vest to $162MM|
|Matt Cain||4/3/2012||6||$127.5MM||$21.25MM||2012||27||2017||33||full||27.9||7th yr vest to $141MM|
|CC Sabathia||10/31/2011*||8||$191MM||$23.875MM||2009||28||2016||35||full||50||9th yr opt to $211MM|
|Johan Santana||2/2/2008||6||$137.5MM||$22.92MM||2008||29||2013||35||full||49.5||7th yr opt to $162.5MM|
* date additional guaranteed year added to existing deal
Note that Wainwright will be 32 years of age in 2014, when his next contract would take effect. That is considerably older than the ages of the highest-paid pitchers in the game when they signed their big deals – all in their late 20s. Also note that none of the four $20 million pitchers will be under contract beyond age 36 (even with vesting options).
Further, refer to the career WAR column. Those totals are as of today, so the pitchers (other than Hamels) had lower WARs when their deals were done. Wainwright’s contribution is much less, though he has potentially a year and a third to pad his total before becoming eligible for free agency.
This might take Wainwright’s years and dollars down a bit, but may also increase his urgency to ensure he secures his last big contract this time around (vs. signing a short-term deal).
Being cognizant of the other contracts, a four-year guaranteed extension with a relatively easily attainable fifth-year option seems reasonable. That would cover his ages 32-36 years and the 2014-2018 seasons.
$20 million per year would seem to be the minimum, making the offer at least $100 million, $80-plus million guaranteed. No-trade protection (see NTC in table above) would likely be expected and granted.
What do you think?
How many guaranteed years would you offer Wainwright (starting in 2014)?
- Four (45%, 141 Votes)
- Three (27%, 84 Votes)
- Five (19%, 60 Votes)
- Two or less (6%, 19 Votes)
- Six or more (3%, 9 Votes)
Total Voters: 313
What AAV (average annual value) would be your top offer?
- $19-20 million (36%, 83 Votes)
- $17-18 million (35%, 81 Votes)
- $21-22 million (14%, 32 Votes)
- $16 million or less (12%, 27 Votes)
- $23 million or more (3%, 8 Votes)
Total Voters: 231