It was announced on October 26th that franchise icon Adam Wainwright would be returning to the Cardinals on a year deal worth $17,500,000. There was a lot of speculation that 2022 would be Waino’s final year, although he never closed the door and decided to come back for an 18th season. Bringing back Wainwright is a move that helps alleviate some of the questions about the Cardinals 2023 starting rotation, although it is fair to wonder whether or not the 3 time All Star will be a reliable piece for the Cardinals this upcoming season.
As long as he can stay healthy throughout the course of the year Adam Wainwright will help provide innings at the back end of this Cardinals. That in of itself brings value to this Cardinals rotation as pitchers are handled with more and more care across the league. However, the former Braves first round pick did grade out as a well below average starter last season. His xERA of 4.53 was in the 23rd lowest percentile, xBA of .270 was in the 11th lowest and his xSLG of .419 was in the 24th lowest percentile. In addition, Wainwright really struggled to miss bats and force chases this season. The veteran’s chase rate of 25.4 percent was in the bottom 10th percentile and his whiff rate of 16.9 percent was in the lowest percentile.
But there were positives that can be taken away from Wainwright’s 2022 season. His average exit velocity against of 87.8 MPH was in the 65th percentile, BB percentage of 6.7 percent was in the 65th percentile and his barrel percentage of 6.5 percent was in the 66th best percentile. In addition, his curveball still graded out as an above average offering. Its spin rate of 2,776 RPM was in the 86th percentile as well as having 67.5 inches of drop which is 2 inches above average and 16.1 inches of break which was 5.1 inches better than league average. In addition, Wainwright threw 191 ⅔ innings this season and 206 ⅔ in 2021 which was the third most innings thrown that season.
Prior to the Wainwright signing, the Cardinals rotation carried some question marks outside of Miles Mikolas. Jordan Montgomery, who I covered in a recent article, started strong for St. Louis but over his final 7 starts he carried a 4.97 ERA and 4.01 FIP, Jack Flaherty missed the majority of the season due to multiple injuries starting only 8 games and Dakota Hudson really struggled throughout the season pitching to a 5.01 xERA. Adam Wainwright gives them so certainty at the back end which was required.
Because of those question mark pitching was needed and needed badly. Personally, even if Jack Flaherty stays healthy this upcoming season, I have a difficult time expecting him to produce numbers close to his peak seasons. Additionally, Matthew Liberatore is an unknown commodity who struggled in his brief stint with the big-league club in 2022. I think the Cardinals should have made an a more aggressive pursuit at some of the bigger pitchers available such as Pablo Lopez, who went to the Miami Marlins or Carlos Rodon who signed with the New York Yankees. But instead, they opted to sit tight and bank on what they are familiar with which you cannot blame the organization for.
Frankly, if Adam Wainwright winds up being the Cardinals third starter at any point this season, there is a serious problem with the pitching staff. However, if he sticks in the back end of the rotation Wainwright is the type of reliable veteran pitcher that teams love to get due to his ability to provide them with innings and leadership.
So, to answer the question of how valuable Adam Wainwright will be to this Cardinals pitching staff, I think he will be a solid if unspectacular fourth starter for this team.