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If the Cardinals can’t keep Wainwright, what is the best consolation prize?

Compensation picks are the parting gifts of Major League Baseball. They are intended to take a bit of the sting out of the hurt felt by contestants who did not come out on top.

So it is with free agency.

For example, the St. Louis Cardinals preferred to retain the services of Albert Pujols, but when the first baseman left for more money in Anaheim, the club was awarded a pair of 2012 draft picks. They were turned into pitcher Michael Wacha of Texas A&M and third baseman Stephen Piscotty from Stanford.

Going forward, MLB’s compensation rules have changed with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. There should be fewer comp picks in the future driven by free agents changing clubs.

One reason is that to qualify for compensation in the future, the current club must make an offer to their free agent-eligible player on a one-year deal that exceeds $12 million. That excludes most players, though certainly not a star like Pujols.

In addition, the player must have been a member of his current team for the entire preceding season. That means a player traded mid-season has less value to a potential acquiring club.

We are already seeing the impact of this in the current trade market. The value of impending free agents is lower because they do not carry guaranteed draft picks with them.

After that long introduction to set the stage, this post is a continuation of yesterday’s subject – the contract status of Adam Wainwright.

I suggested that the Cardinals will want to keep the right-hander. However, as we were reminded by the Pujols situation, every team and every player has its price. Sometimes, the two sides simply do not line up.

Yesterday’s polls – in which you can still vote – indicate the limits of fans in paying Wainwright if they were the Cardinals general manager.

In terms of duration, about half the voters would guarantee Wainwright four years in his next contract, covering his ages 32 through 35. Most others would go either three or five.

In terms of money, about a third would commit at most $17-$18 million per year. Another third would offer as much as $19-20 million, with the other third either higher or lower.

Today’s question is timing. With Wainwright under contract through 2013, should the Cardinals push for an extension soon? What should they do if the pitcher’s expectations are not in line with four years at $17-20 million per season?

Some factors to consider:

While the right-hander has been inconsistent this season in his return from Tommy John surgery, there has been more evidence of the old Wainwright in his recent outings. Still, is he all the way back and how big of an injury risk does he represent?

The longer the two sides wait, the more opportunity the market has to expand. This is evidenced by Cole Hamels’ recent $24 million per year deal and with Zack Greinke waiting on deck.

The Cardinals signed Wainwright to a team-friendly deal prior to the 2008 season that will ultimately cover six years. The club took some risk in doing so, but it paid off. Now, will Wainwright decide to go for one big contact at age 32?

All things considered, in 2012, the Cardinals may want to learn what it would take to sign Wainwright to retain his services in 2014 and beyond.

If the price is too high and/or the years too great, would they consider trading him in the 2012-13 off-season, when he would still be compensation-pick eligible to a prospective new club the following winter?

Is trying to win in 2013 with Wainwright (rather than with what he might fetch in trade) worth losing the potential compensation picks if he walks after that season? Could the ongoing negotiations become a distraction?

That sets the stage for today’s two questions, in which you can again be the (pretend) GM.

Should the Cardinals attempt to open contract negotiations with Wainwright relatively soon?

  • Yes. Do it now or no later than this fall. (80%, 408 Votes)
  • No. Wait until the 2013 season or the 2013-14 off-season. (20%, 105 Votes)

Total Voters: 513

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If Wainwright appears to be a difficult sign, should the Cardinals trade him?

  • Perhaps, but wait until the 2013 season evolves first. (50%, 203 Votes)
  • No. (28%, 111 Votes)
  • Yes, do it this coming off-season. (22%, 89 Votes)

Total Voters: 403

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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12 Responses to “If the Cardinals can’t keep Wainwright, what is the best consolation prize?”

  1. blingboy says:

    Mo’s attention will be focused on the rotation this winter. Other than Lance thaere are no position players hitting FA or with options to be considered. In the pen there is only Fuentes not under contract or control for 2013.

    He is looking at the Lohse FA and the Westbrook option. He’s got young guys like Lynn, Kelly and Garcia. He’s got touted rotation prospects like Rosenthal, Miller, Martinez, etc.

    So it seems like decisions will have to be made this winter as to what the rotation is going to look like over the next few years. Its hard to figure how that could be done without knowing if Wainy will be paart of the picture.

    • blingboy says:

      I think Wainy and Carp are both due after the 2013 season. How the younger guys are panning out will be clearer by them. Still, assuming typical performance from them both next year, that would be a humungous loss to fill going into 2014. Its a year and a half away, though. We could have new aces emerging by then. Younger and cheaper.

      But this is baseball, and all the well laid plans could careen off the tracks. It will be interesting to see how Mo proceeds.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Good points as to the potential impact on other decisions.

  2. blingboy says:

    Kemp and Ethier look bad out there. Send in Curly Joe too.

  3. blingboy says:

    The solo HR club should make Matt their king.

  4. WesPowell says:

    Fantastic guys. To come back and get 3 in a row after losing the opener. 1 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot.

  5. Bw52 says:

    The development of the youngsters will have a large effect on where Mo has to spend his money.
    The position players are pretty much covered contract wise or have a replacement speeding thru the minors (Taveras,Wong,Matt Adams,Ryan Jackson etc;)
    With Lynn and Kelly holding their own and Garcia returning healthy hopefully the maturing of Shelby Miller,Gast,Martinez, and others the Cards might not feel the need to sign a pitcher to a large contract.

  6. WesPowell says:

    I’ll never forget that final pitch he made to Beltran. It’s like frozen in my mind as a pleasant thought whenever needed.

  7. crdswmn says:

    The Astros claimed Chuckie Fick off waivers.

  8. crdswmn says:

    Greinke to the Angels.

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