After missing all of the 2011 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright rebounded with a very solid 2012 season, going 14-13 while posting a 3.94 ERA. With Wainright entering the final year of his contract, both the Cardinals front office and Wainwright have expressed interest in signing a long-term extension that would keep him in St. Louis for the foreseeable future. Wainwright is set to make $12,000,000 in 2013, which ranks as the 22nd highest base salary for next year among starting pitchers in the MLB.
Analysis: Signing Wainwright to a long-term extension now could save the Cardinals a lot of money down the line if he is able to recapture his pre-injury 2010 form, when he went 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA and finished 2nd in the running for the NL Cy Young. Considering that the average of the top 5 base salaries for starting pitchers for 2014 is $22,860,000, he could be in line for more than a $10 million raise in base salary in 2014 if he does return to his place as one of the premier starting pitchers in the majors. If the Cardinals sign him now, they could get potentially get him for much less, as a return to top 5 form is not a guarantee at this point.
Bottom Line: If the Cardinals brass is betting on Wainwright returning to his pre-injury, Cy Young quality form, then the quicker they sign him to an extension the cheaper it will be, as every quality outing he has next season will serve to raise his value on the open market and shift the leverage towards Wainwright at the negotiation table.