The St. Louis Cardinals signed Adam Wainwright to a big contract extension on Wednesday--five years, $97.5 million--and I'm happy about that because I like Adam Wainwright a lot. That was easy! As with any huge contract extension, of course, the possibility exists that I will eventually not be happy about it, because Adam Wainwright's big contract extension will no longer match up very well with his actual performance.
The good news: Adam Wainwright is worth about $20 million a year right now. It seems condescending to start there, except that the Ryan Howard contract is a real thing. As not-quite-Wainwright as Adam Wainwright looked in 2012, his fielding-independent stats--strikeout rate, walk rate, home run rate--came out almost identical to his 2009 marks, and his projections for 2013 are pretty strong, as a result.
The bad news: The contract doesn't start right now. Like the Yadier Molina contract before it, a lot of my hopes for this extension were pinned on the idea that the Cardinals' main incentive for extending them a year ahead of free agency was to propose a five-year deal that was actually a four-year deal--one that gave Wainwright a raise in 2013 instead of $20 million in 2018.
Instead, the Cardinals signed Wainwright (and Molina) to a five-year contract that was actually a six-year contract; the $97.5 million won't start trickling out until 2014.
That's a significant risk to take on a thirtysomething pitcher; there's a good skeptical take on it in-house, courtesy Steven Goldman, if you'd like to read one. But I think it's fair, if you're a Cardinals fan, to take the same approach team and player did and just forget about your reservations until 2014--for now it's reasonable to just relish the prospect of enjoying Adam Wainwright for another five (six) years.