Cardinals sign Adam Wainwright to one-year contract extension

Wainwright, who has spent his entire major-league career in a Cardinals uniform, will return to St. Louis in 2019.

The Cardinals have signed right-handed pitcher Adam Wainwright to a one-year contract extension, per a club announcement Thursday:

Financial terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

Wainwright, who was drafted by the Braves but has spent his entire major-league career in St. Louis after being traded in a five-player deal in December of 2003, ranks sixth all-time among Cardinals pitchers in bWAR (34.3), fifth in wins (148), fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (7.56), seventh in innings (1,932), eight in appearances (352), fifth in starts (285), and second in strikeouts (1,623).

Though he is a three-time All-Star and one of the most effective starting pitchers in Cardinals history, Wainwright has had some trouble staying healthy in recent years and hasn’t always been effective when he’s been on the mound. After missing most of the 2015 season following an Achilles tear, he’s posted ERAs above 4.00 and WHIPs above 1.40 in each of the last three seasons, seeing his appearances go down each year (33 in 2016, 24 in ‘17, eight this season).

After he got off to a rocky start to 2018, issuing 19 hits and 14 walks over 18 innings and going on the DL three times over the first six weeks of the season — including a stint with right elbow soreness that kept him out from May 15-September 10 — it looked like Wainwright probably wouldn’t be re-signed after his contract expired at the end of this year. But after a more encouraging September — most notably a September 16 start during which he shut out the Dodgers for six innings, allowing just two hits and three walks — Wainwright obviously showed the Cardinals whatever they needed to see to award him a spot for next season.

It’s unclear what role Wainwright will have with the Cardinals in 2019. With Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Alex Reyes, and Michael Wacha set to be in the rotation mix in 2019, it seems extremely unlikely that he’ll be penciled into the starting five heading into spring training, though an offseason trade or a decision to move an injury-prone pitcher like Martinez, Reyes, or Wacha to the bullpen could change things. Even if that type of move does occur, though, Wainwright will have to compete with younger pitchers like John Gant, Austin Gomber, Daniel Poncedeleon, and Luke Weaver who saw extensive rotation time in 2018, plus Dakota Hudson, who pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in the majors but was a starter in Triple-A and won the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year Award.

While Wainwright served as the Cardinals’ closer down the stretch in 2006, his current skill set would likely make him a better option as a multi-inning middle reliever at this point — much like Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock were for this year’s Astros club. If he ends up in the bullpen, however, Wainwright could end up squeezing a prominent contributor from 2018 out of a roster spot, as Gant and relievers such as Dominic Leone, Mike Mayers, and Chasen Shreve will be out of options heading into spring training next year.

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