March 28, 2013: Adam Wainwright signs five-year extension to remain in St. Louis

Adam Wainwright may not have gotten nervous on the days he took the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals, but the morning that he and the Cardinals were set to announce the five-year, $97.5-million contract extension that would keep him in St. Louis through the 2018 season, he found that he couldn’t eat.

The deal represented the largest contract the Cardinals had ever awarded a pitcher, and the third-largest in team history behind deals for Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols,[1] but Wainwright wasn’t concerned about the money. Instead, he was overcome by the emotion of the moment.

“I feel like my heart is in St. Louis,” Wainwright said. “I love it here. I love driving to the field and seeing the Arch, driving up and seeing the amazing Busch Stadium. It’s a treat to work there every day, and it’s something that continues to catch me off guard and make me feel like I’m way too blessed.”[2]

Wainwright used the press conference to express his appreciation for everyone who helped him along the way.

He thanked his mother Nancy, who raised him as a single mother, and his older brother Trey.

“The guy who taught me how to play baseball,” Wainwright said.[3]

He thanked pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and former pitching coaches Dave Duncan and Marty Mason. He thanked Chris Carpenter for teaching him to be a better competitor. He even hugged Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak.[4]

“I’m a hugger,” he said.[5]

Several times he had to stop and regain his composure – once when he noticed several teammates observing the press conference from the corner of the room.

“My teammates were a big factor in me wanting to come back here,” Wainwright said. “I love our clubhouse, from the attendants to every player in there. I don’t know if it gets better anywhere else. I’ve had opposing players come up and say, ‘You don’t know how good you have it here.’ Actually, I do realize how good I have it.”[6]

He paused again when he began to speak of his wife Jenny and his three daughters, who were all in attendance. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote that, “Each time his voice cracked, (6-year-old) Baylie and her sister, 4-year-old Morgan, moved forward in their seats, ready to race to their father if allowed.”[7]

“They’ve never seen me like that, probably,” Wainwright said. “I think my girls are great comforters. They wanted to make their dad feel better. They didn’t know I was crying from joy. … It started at breakfast. I could hardly eat. I’m not a nervous pitcher, so I can’t relate to that. It was deeper than that. It was like I knew what was going to happen. I was fighting the tears. I wasn’t winning very well.”[8]

Wainwright said that the tears in his eyes blurred his vision so much that he couldn’t read his notes, causing him to forget to thank Dr. George Paletta, who performed the Tommy John surgery that allowed him to return after missing the 2011 season.[9]

“Usually, I am not at a loss for words, but the city of St. Louis means so much to me that it’s taken me a little bit to get it out,” he said.[10]

Wainwright’s new contract was the product of almost two months of negotiations.[11] Wainwright initially sought a five-year deal approaching $110 million. Meanwhile, the Cardinals offered five years for $90 million.[12] Wainwright’s agent, Steve Hammond, agreed to the framework of the deal on Tuesday, March 26, as he and Mozeliak watched Wainwright make his final start of spring training. The details were finalized the following day before the contract was signed.[13]

Five years earlier, Wainwright had agreed to a four-year, $15-million deal with team options for $9 million in 2012 and $12 million in 2013.

“When you try to quantify personality traits and player makeup, it’s difficult to put a dollar sign on,” Mozeliak said, gesturing to Wainwright and his family. “We just saw it – what makes him so special. That’s part of the package.

“The other part is the things we don’t see and hear about, especially the public. The things he does with young pitchers, the things he does to work with them and mentor them. Those are all important to what makes Adam who Adam is. We believe he’s a top-of-the-rotation talent and when you combine his talent with his intangibles and what he brings as a leader and a mentor and he’s just the ideal person to anchor our rotation moving forward.”[14]

Even as Wainwright’s contract surpassed the five-year, $63.5 million contract Carpenter signed in 2006 to become the largest deal ever given to a Cardinals pitcher,[15] Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote that Wainwright could have earned more had he waited until after the 2013 season and entered the free-agent market.[16]

“I just realized I have complete peace about staying in St. Louis. That’s worth more than a few extra dollars,” Wainwright said. “The opportunity to keep Cardinal tradition alive means a tremendous amount to me. This is honest stuff. It’s sincere. I’m not saying it because I feel any need to say it. If it wasn’t true, the situation might be different.”[17]

Just as Mozeliak pointed to Wainwright’s intangibles, manager Mike Matheny pointed to the impact Wainwright could have on the Cardinals’ crop of young pitchers.

“We start talking about a Michael Wacha, a Shelby Miller, a Joe Kelly, a Carlos Martinez, and you realize that they need somebody to pass that on,” Matheny said. “He’s going to have to bear that reputation that this organization has to keep going. That’s a great responsibility and it couldn’t happen to a better person.”[18]

Of course, Wainwright’s primary responsibility was to pitch. During the press conference, he turned to DeWitt and said, “I can’t wait to make you proud of this contract.”[19]

In 2013, he led the National League with 29 wins and 241 2/3 innings pitched, posting a 2.94 ERA on his way to a second-place finish in the Cy Young Award voting.

In 2014, the first year of his new contract, he won 20 games for the second time in his career, posting a career-low 2.38 ERA over 227 innings. This time, he placed third in the Cy Young voting.

In April 2015, Wainwright suffered a torn Achilles tendon, an injury that kept him out the remainder of the season and continued to impact him in 2016, as he won 13 games, but also saw his ERA spike to 4.62, the highest of his career.

In 2017, Wainwright experienced elbow pain as he went 12-5 but also struggled with a 5.12 ERA. After the season, he underwent surgery to remove a cartilage flap. The surgery was successful, but Wainwright suffered through an injury-plagued 2018 season, pitching in just eight games in the final year of the contract.

Ahead of the 2019 season, Wainwright signed a one-year, $2 million contract. That April, he earned the 150th win of his career on his way to a 14-10 record. In the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, Wainwright again returned on a one-year deal, this time going 5-3 with a 3.15 ERA. In 2021, he enjoyed his best season since he tore his Achilles tendon, going 17-7 with a 3.05 ERA over 206 1/3 innings.


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[1] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[2] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[3] Chuck King (Associated Press), “Wainwright, Cards finalize $97.5M deal,” Springfield News-Leader, March 29, 2013.

[4] Joe Strauss, “Clubhouse leadership,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[5] Joe Strauss, “Clubhouse leadership,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[6] Joe Strauss, “Clubhouse leadership,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[7] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[8] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[9] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[10] Chuck King (Associated Press), “Wainwright, Cards finalize $97.5M deal,” Springfield News-Leader, March 29, 2013.

[11] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[12] Joe Strauss, “Clubhouse leadership,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[13] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[14] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[15] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[16] Joe Strauss, “Clubhouse leadership,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[17] Joe Strauss, “Clubhouse leadership,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[18] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

[19] Derrick Goold, “Wainwright extension,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 29, 2013.

 

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