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.