I like the Wainwright extension. I love what it means. I also hate what it means.
When Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to terms on a 5-year, $97,500,000 extension this week, there was plenty of reaction from Cardinals fans, but not much variety among those reactions. The (very team-friendly) extension has no deferred money, and an AAV of $19,500,000 per year. I'm using all those zeroes on purpose--it's easy to forget just how much money it truly is when the word "Billion" has crept into the game recently.
I like the deal. It makes sense for the organization on several levels, that have been well-documented. We know about the plethora of young arms in the system that are currently under control, very inexpensive, and for the most part teachable. Wainwright is a great anchor for a situation like this. These young players can learn a lot from Waino, and I expect they will, just like many pitchers for decades and generations before them. Not to mention, it is the perfect compliment to the Yadi extension we saw a year ago. This whole organization's pitching staff benefits from these two being inked to (relatively) long-term deals.
I love what the deal means. Members of Cardinal nation are not only familiar with the phrase "hometown discount", folks works it into every hypothetical scenario when discussing ideas as to "what they'd do if they were Mo". To lowball a player's agent, and expect them to be overjoyed, and thank you for the opportunity to accept your low offer is sheer stupidity, "Best fans in baseball" or not. If I were a major leaguer, I wouldn't LOVE playing in Oakland (particularly as a hitter), but enough zeroes on the ol' paycheck, and I could certainly get used to it. I don't think anyone who pays attention would argue that Wainwright couldn't have gotten a larger payday had he tested the FA market. Have you SEEN the starting rotation the Yankees and Red Sox are trotting out there?? For all the talk, it's great to see that it can, and occasionally does still happen--a hometown discount. A guys signs for less to stay in St. Louis, and play for the Cardinals. Some thought we might see it happen a couple of years ago, but we actually did see it this week.
I hate what the deal means. I hate that in order to get an Adam Wainwright-caliber pitcher, the organization was able to take advantage of (an aforementioned very team-friendly) deal worth $19.5M AAV for 5-years. Justin Verlander agreed to an extension with the Detroit Tigers within days of Wainwright's deal, but the difference in dollars is astonishing.
Verlander became the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history when he signed a 7-year deal worth $180,000,000. I know, again with the zeroes. I'm not going to try to tell you that Wainwright is Verlander, he isn't. But is Verlander almost twice as good? Not hardly. I'm not going to break down what each organization is projected to pay per strikeout, per inning pitched...etc, but suffice to say that somewhere between the overpaying of Verlander and the underpaying of Wainwright, the average payday for good pitchers lies somewhere in between. The Kershaw & Price deals remain to be seen, but I suspect they'll be a little more JV and a little less AW. This could require more teams in MLB (and perhaps all who won't have a mega TV deal in their near future) to change their approach in order to be competitive, as in be a little more Tampa Bay and a little less Los Angeles.