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Big deals could mean big problems if the Cardinals don't act soonPosted Friday, April 6, 2012, at 9:38 AM
Before I dive into today's column, I wanted to remind everyone to dive into this week's contest for a free BluRay/DVD combo pack of Baseball's Greatest Games featuring Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Just click on this link to read more and find out how to enter.
Now, back to baseball.
Today we're going to talk about money since there seems to be so much of it flying around in the last few months. Magic Johnson buys the Dodgers for a record $2 billion. Pujols signs his monster deal with Anaheim.
While those two deals were monumental, two deals that happened just this week may have a more long-term affect on the team as it moves toward the future.
Matt Cain, starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, signed a deal that will pay him a total of $127.5 million with a vesting option for 2018 that could bring the total to more than $141 million over seven years.
While Adam Wainwright is likely still in shock, John Mozeliak is probably crying in his beer for not wrapping up an extension while Waino was recovering from Tommy John surgery.
To put things into perspective, here is why:
Matt Cain -- Right handed pitcher, 27 years old, 69-73 win/loss record, 3.35 lifetime ERA.
Adam Wainwright -- Right handed pitcher, 30 years old, 66-35 in four seasons as a starter (fifth year he did not pitch due to Tommy John), 2.97 lifetime ERA.
First off, Cain is not even the Giants ace. I fear the contract Tim Lincecum will bring.
Second, Wainwright having already had Tommy John surgery makes him a lesser risk in terms of spending a year on the DL. I'm not saying it will happen to Cain, but the risk is always there.
Third, Wainwright is the more solid proven pitcher. Cain has never had more than 14 wins in a season. That's right, I said 14. Wainwright, who unlike Cain has never had a losing season, put up 19 and 20 wins in 2009 and 2010. With a little more run and bullpen support late in the year, either of those could have been 22-game winner Cy Young caliber years. He definitely still has those kinds of years left in him.
If Cain can bring in more than $21 million per season in a six (possibly seven) year deal, what should Wainwright get? Simply put, more than $21 million.
Lincecum is tied to the Giants through 2013 already, but rest assured, they won't be waiting until then to work out an extension. If the Cardinals want any hope of signing Wainwright when his contract expires, they have to move now, before Lincecum, or any other deal, sets the floor any higher.
Will the Cardinals go that high to keep Wainwright in St. Louis? I don't see that they have a choice. With a plethora of young arms jamming the exit doors of our farm system, a veteran starter to anchor the squad in the future is an absolute necessity. They need to make the move, and they need to make it now. The team can't afford to wait.
Wainwright will be after the money. I'm not knocking him for that, but we need to remember that baseball is still a business. If he's going to throw for a total of $21 million over two seasons, it's not only acceptable for him to want the money, it's well deserved.
My estimate is 7 years/$23 million average annual value. Minimum.
Matt Cain isn't the only player grinning from ear to ear this week. Joey Votto pulled off an amazing deal as well.
The Reds re-signed Votto this week to a deal that, including his remaining two years, will net him $251.5 million over 12 years. Wow.
The 2010 NL MVP now boasts the longest guaranteed contract in the history of baseball. Votto is a great all around player and, assuming he can stay healthy, should continue to be a valuable asset to the Reds for quite a few years.
After Pujols signed in California, Walt Jocketty obviously decided he didn't want to get into an ugly battle two years down the road like what happened to the Cardinals. In that respect, he did good.
In two years, who knows what the big money will be. Will it still be A-Rod money or will there be some other massive deal everyone is looking to match. Only time will tell if financially this is a good move.
My biggest argument is that 10 or 12 years is a long time to expect anyone to remain at the top of their game. The longer these contracts go and the higher the average annual value, the more difficult it is going to be for teams in markets the size of St. Louis and smaller to remain competitive.
A certain amount of inflation is just part of life, but when normal big bat money is rapidly approaching A-Rod money it's time to pay attention.
A reader commented Thursday evening about how the Reds keeping Votto and the legacy he will leave, gives them something the Cardinals lost in the Pujols deal and I agree. It's a shame that we won't have that with Pujols, but he made his choice. At the same time, I commend the Reds for making, and being able to make, the move before it got out of hand like what happened here.
The Pujols deal was destined to happen. Anyone who paid close attention to not just what he said, but how he said some things, should have had doubts about the likelihood of him staying. For most of 2011, I thought he would leave. For a brief period after the season, I thought I was wrong. We all know how that ended.
Fans were forgiving to the organization in the Pujols deal. Re-signing Yadier Molina was a step in the right direction. After all that has happened, letting Wainwright walk will not be so quickly forgiven.
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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