Comeback stories are awesome. Seeing a player that everyone had given up on overcoming their struggles to be successful is what makes for great sports stories. Adam Wainwright was the feel-good story of the year for the St. Louis Cardinals. The ending of this story has been written and it’s time to move on.
Adam Wainwright is a future Cardinals Hall of Famer. He will be fondly remembered by all that were able to watch his amazing career. Closing out the World Series striking out Brandon Inge or maybe even more memorable his nasty curveball that finished off future teammate Carlos Beltran to get to that World Series will be embedded into Cardinals fans forever. Memories are great but right now the Cardinals have to be looking to the future.
Let’s go over his 2019 season. Wainwright was one of the most effective pitchers down the stretch for the St. Louis Cardinals. His 2.97 ERA in the months of September and October helped St. Louis win the division and perhaps overachieve by making it to the NLCS. Wainwright’s overall numbers were solid, 14 wins, 2.2 WAR, 4.39 xFIP and 171 innings pitched. The Cardinal’s veteran pitched well enough to reach all of his incentives, making his contract worth $10 million. His numbers at the end of the season paid for his price tag.
The Cardinals need to add more pitching depth. You have two young guys at the top of the rotation in Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson along with Miles Mikolas. The rest of the rotation is a question mark. Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes are both having a problem staying healthy their entire careers. Daniel Ponce De Leon seems to never be a part of the conversation. Austin Gomber had an injury derail his season. Jake Woodford and Genesis Cabrera are both not ready to be full time.
I don’t believe the Cardinals will go all in on Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg there are a number of affordable arms that can bring upside for multiple years while you discover what you have with your young starters. Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Zack Wheeler Hyun-Jin Ryu, Michael Pineda and Dallas Keuchel are just a few of the names that will be available at a moderately affordable price.
Let’s say the Cardinals don’t like the idea of giving up a compensatory pick. That would eliminate Wheeler and Odorizzi. Let’s also say Dallas Keuchel still wants that big contract that he couldn’t find last offseason, the Cardinals won’t want to do that. Why not make a call to Hyun-Jin Ryu. Just 33 years old, Ryu has a much bigger upside.
The price for Wainwright’s return is fair. All of the aforementioned free agent pitchers will cost you more than $5-million plus incentives. I am not upset about the price, I am upset because we have seen the highest upside we will see from Wainwright and where did that get the Cardinals. Making it to the NLCS is great, personally I think they overachieved based on the full season performance. The Cardinals have to focus on a new direction. They have to move on from the players that have peaked. Adam Wainwright peaked in 2019. To expect Wainwright to not go through negative regression is overly optimistic. You are giving away a rotation spot to a 38 year old that depends on location. It’s time to try something new, it’s time for the organization to make a move to change the consistency of mediocrity. The emotions of Wainwrights 2019 success have masked management’s eyes. They are not seeing that it is time to focus on the future. Keeping Wainwright around to be a “mentor” to the young staff will stunt the progression of leadership that you need from a guy like Jack Flaherty.
Wainwright will be back in 2020. He may have a great season. When you look at the rotation though he will be at the top of the question marks. Can he be what he was in 2019? Is that really what the fanbase wants? Isn’t it time to be better? I am not rooting against Wainwright. I am just ready to move on from his era.