Tommy John surgery could cost Adam Wainwright $21 million

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Adam Wainwright is seeking a second opinion on his injured elbow before making a decision about Tommy John surgery, but just about everything suggests he’ll eventually go under the knife and be sidelined for 12-18 months.

Even a speedy recovery from the surgery would have Wainwright on the disabled list when this season ends and that could lead to the Cardinals declining his options for 2012 and 2013 thanks to a twist in the contract he signed in March of 2008.

By finishing among the top five in last season’s Cy Young balloting Wainwright triggered a $9 million option for 2012 and $12 million option for 2013. Those are bargain rates for a healthy No. 1 starter, but because the contract includes a clause that allows the Cardinals to void the two years if he finishes 2011 on the DL with any sort of arm injury Wainwright could be out $21 million (after making $6.5 million without throwing an inning this season).

That would make Wainwright a free agent after this season and likely put him in position to accept an incentive-laden contract like, say, Brandon Webb has been forced to do in his recovery from shoulder problems. However, as Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes, the Cardinals may instead try to work out a new multi-year deal with Wainwright that lessens their upfront commitment while still keeping him in St. Louis long term.

Or they could choose not to void the two option years and simply pay $21 million for 2012 and 2013 in the hopes that Wainwright will come back healthy and give them one or one-and-a-half good seasons for that money, but with the team presumably trying to pinch pennies in order to re-sign Albert Pujols to a monster deal that seems unlikely.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.