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Was Bringing Back Adam Wainwright A Smart Idea?

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Adam Wainwright is back in Cardinal red for the 2023 season. However, we won’t have him for long, as this is his final season in the big leagues. The veteran right-hander announced that he would retire at season’s end after returning to the team on a one-year, $17.5 million contract.

While Wainwright has been a stalwart in the Cardinals rotation since 2007, his 2023 season hasn’t gone according to plan. I do think he’s been unlucky in a few of his starts, particularly his last one against the Reds, when Alec Burleson missed two balls in the outfield that resulted in runs scoring, which soured his line. In my opinion, Burleson should have had both of those balls and been charged with two errors.

But in three of his first four starts, he has surrendered four or more runs. He’s 2-0, but has an ERA of 6.33. This ultimately has led fans to wonder if bringing him back for one last season was a smart decision by the organization. Below, we will discuss both sides of the issue an whether or not the organization made the right call to bring him back.

The Case For Letting Him Walk

The veteran right-hander finished the 2022 season with a thud, which ultimately cost him a spot in the postseason rotation. His stats were still respectable though, as he posted a 3.71 ERA over 32 starts. But his uncharacteristically bad September raised questions about whether or not father time had finally caught up with him.

I’m not saying that’s necessarily the case, but much of what was plaguing him last September is still plaguing him. His velocity is down a little bit, and he has been unable to record a quality start this year.

On top of that, he’s 41 years old and has thrown a lot of pitches. Few pitchers last that long, and it’s impressive that Wainwright has been able to bounce back from countless injuries and remain healthy. But with other starting pitchers available this winter, that money could have been better spent on somebody like Nathan Eovaldi, who is having a strong season with the Rangers.

You’ll never hear me say a bad word about the two-time World Series champion, but given his recent performance, you have to wonder if bringing him back was truly the right move.

The Case For Bringing Him Back

There are also several good reasons for the front office to have brought Wainwright back for one final season. Despite his performance, we’ve seen him turn things around time after time and defy the odds, as well as father time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do just that one last time.

Wainwright also brings valuable experience and leadership. You can always trust him in big games, especially when the Cardinals need to stop a losing skid. He’s a presence that players in the clubhouse lean on in tough times and is somebody who can help lighten the mood when things aren’t going right.

Heck, he even created some art to help the team relax a little amidst their poor start, reminding them of how rough the ride was in 2006 before they went on to win the World Series. He also still has a great sense of humor and can keep everybody loose.

Also, while I previously mentioned that the money given to him could potentially have been put to use elsewhere, the Cardinals talked about increasing their payroll, and signing Wainwright should not have stopped them from adding more pitching.