Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he feared the worst when news of Adam Wainwright’s elbow injury surfaced yesterday and unfortunately it’s now official, as the team announced today that Wainwright will undergo Tommy John surgery.
He’ll return in 12-18 months with a big scar and a rebuilt elbow, but whether Wainwright will still be with the Cardinals remains to be seen. St. Louis can void their $9 million option for 2012 and $12 million for 2013 if he ends this season on the disabled list, which is now a given.
I wrote this morning about the various ways the Cardinals can approach the contract situation, but the short version is that they can void the deal and make Wainwright a free agent after this season, try to work out a new multi-year deal that includes less upfront money, or simply commit to paying him $21 million in the hopes he comes back healthy in early or mid-2012.
In the meantime the Cardinals have said repeatedly that they plan to replace Wainwright with an in-house candidate rather than pursue a veteran replacement such as free agent Kevin Millwood. That could change after they get a longer look at the various rotation possibilities in camp, but for now the injury creates big opportunities for guys like Kyle McClellan, Brian Tallet, Ian Snell, and Lance Lynn.
There’s no doubt that the last three years have put David Wright through the ringer. The Mets third baseman missed the bulk of his 2015 season with spinal stenosis and made it through a month of games in 2016 before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. In 2017, a bout of shoulder impingement, rotator cuff surgery and a laminotomy procedure on his lower back kept him off the field for all 162 games.
Despite the continual setbacks, Wright told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, he doesn’t believe retirement is in the cards for him this year. “When the end comes, the end comes,” he said Friday. “Hopefully, I’ve got a little more left. But I guess that’s to be determined.”
The 35-year-old last appeared for High-A St. Lucie in 2017, powering through three games with one hit and five strikeouts in 10 plate appearances. His career has advanced in fits and starts since 2015, but you don’t have to do too much digging to find his last great performance with the Mets. Wright earned his seventh career All-Star berth in 2013, slashing .307/.390/.514 with 18 home runs and a terrific 6.0 fWAR in 492 PA. While he isn’t expected to mash at those levels in the near future, if ever again, the Mets believe the veteran third baseman might still have something left in the tank as he tries to extend a 13-year run in the majors.
Per DiComo, the only thing standing in his way is a clean bill of health — not just for the upcoming season, but for the years to come. Wright said he wouldn’t risk returning to the field if it came with long-term implications for his quality of life.
The surgeries are obviously serious stuff, but it just kind of plays with your mind mentally, where you don’t know how your body’s going to hold up,” Wright said. “You don’t know how you’re going to feel a month from now. You don’t know how you’re going to feel a couple weeks from now. You’re hoping that it continues to get better, but you just don’t know.
Given the uncertainty that surrounds his return to the game, it’s a prudent outlook to have.