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Tommy John surgery could cost Adam Wainwright $21 million

Feb 24, 2011, 10:15 AM EDT

adam-wainwright-cardinals2 AP

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.

  1. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    WWJGD? What Would Jonny Gomes Do?

    • jamool26 - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:32 AM

      He would laugh at Wainright’s misfortunes…..

  2. uyf1950 - Feb 24, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    I posted the below comment yesterday on this very subject.

    I was just reading another tidbit of information on another site as it relates to Wainwright and his contract. His 2012 and 2013 team options are NOT guaranteed if he finishes the 2011 season on the disabled list. Which we all can assume is assured if he needs Tommy John surgery. That would mean the Cardinals would have some serious decisions to make at the end of the 2011 season.
    First – What to do about Wainwrights contract years for 2012 and 2013 since they (Cardinals) would no longer be obligated to keep him.
    Second – What to do about Carpenter and his option. He will turn 37 at the start of the 2012 season and be do $15MM if indeed the Cardinals pick up his option.
    Third – What to do about Albert. Give in to his demands or let him walk?
    If Wainwright can’t give 100% until roughly the 2013 it would seem senseless to keep him and exercise the option years. If Pujols walks after this year the chances of the Cardinals having successful seasons in both 2011 and 2012 are near zero. Without Pujols and/or Wainwright for all or part of 2 seasons why pick up the option on Carpenter for 2012? The Cardinals aren’t going to be the contender they used to be with just Carpenter and Holliday as the primary “hay makers”. What to do, what to do?

    • Chris Fiorentino - Feb 24, 2011 at 4:51 PM

      Thank you for re-posting your comment from yesterday…gave me a chance to give it another thumbs down!!!

      • uyf1950 - Feb 24, 2011 at 6:44 PM

        You’re welcome. Based on some of your other comments it’s always a pleasure for me to enlighten the uninformed.

  3. The Baseball Idiot - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    The Cardinals signed Cris Carpenter to a $5 mil contract knowing he would miss the entire first year, and always have the potential to get hurt again.

    As much as everyone thinks its cute to dislike the Cardinals, and as much as everyone likes to use their intense personal dislike of a man they have not actually met in person as an excuse to dislike the Cardinals, they are now, and always have been, and will continue to be, a class organization that treats their players well.

    You never hear former players knocking the city or the team, even after they’ve been released or traded. I could be wrong, but I’m willing to bet Wainright stays a Cardinal, and it won’t be any long, drawn out issue.

    • phukyouk - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:27 AM

      and this is what we would call a bad business decision. there is class and then there is smarts. the “Classy” thing to do would be to keep him until hes better given how good hes been for them. the “Smart” thing to do would be to drop him as fast as they can and use that $ for Albert. no offense man but if you had a serious condition that kept you out of work for say….. 18 month-24 months would you expect your job to continue paying you that whole time?

      • phukyouk - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:29 AM

        crap! hit send to quick…

        to add to that.. if Jeets or Cano or Hughes or even Mo went down with an injury that kept them out for 2 yrs i would NOT expect the yanks (even te Old Boss) to keep paying them…. its just stupid and doesnt make sense.

      • The Baseball Idiot - Feb 24, 2011 at 12:08 PM

        Go back and look at what Carpenter’s done since he signed. It’s a gamble, but smart teams take gambles all the time.

        We just never pay attention to the ones that pay off, because it’s more enjoyable to make fun of someone than congratulate them.

        No reason to think Waiinwright cant do the same thing.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 24, 2011 at 12:16 PM

        to add to that.. if Jeets or Cano or Hughes or even Mo went down with an injury that kept them out for 2 yrs i would NOT expect the yanks (even te Old Boss) to keep paying them…. its just stupid and doesnt make sense.

        Except that’s baseball, you have to keep paying them. The only way you can get out of a contract is to buy it out, or if the player does some expressly forbidden in his contract that allows the club to get out (see Boone, Aaron playing bball and blowing out his knee).

        Also, the Yanks signed Jon Lieber to a two year deal knowing that the first year he’d have to rehab from TJ surgery.

      • phukyouk - Feb 24, 2011 at 12:40 PM

        sorry i should have been clear. what i meant was… if someone is not under contract, or the team has a way out of it, its a no brainer to do that. i mean why pay money that you dont have to? and yea the yanks paid leiber.. and the Nats paid Wang but this is different. this is tommy john. you know this guy is not pitching again until 2013 so why pay him millions for 2 yrs that you know he wont be there.

    • jamool26 - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:45 AM

      I think you are the baseball idiot because most people on here are not saying anything but positive things about Wainright. We feel bad for the guy, but in the end it is a business and the right business decisions need to be made. The only people hating on the Cardinals are Cincinnati fans/players (especially Jonny Gomes).

  4. BC - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Don’t players take insurance policies out for these sorts of things?

    • sknut - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:32 AM

      Teams also take out insurance policies on players too. The Twins had one on Nathan and thus only had to pay him about 6 million instead of the 12 that he was due to make.

    • uyf1950 - Feb 24, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      What insurance do you expect to pay for Wainwright? The Cardinals only own him $6.5MM for this season (2011). Insurance isn’t going to pay for the 2012 and 2013 season since the Cardinals do NOT have to keep him. His contract states the team can void his option years if he’s on the DL at the end of the 2011 season. Why would the insurance company have to pay out a claim that they are not obligated to pay since the team clearly has an out clause for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

      • phukyouk - Feb 24, 2011 at 12:01 PM


  5. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    He’s worth paying in 2012 and 2013 because of his raw ability. Pitchers have often rebounded well from TJ surgery, and the Cardinals would be foolish to let him walk. He stays, for either his option years or for a new deal, and this will all be moot.

    Get well soon, Adam.

  6. henryd3rd - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    Its a bad break for Carpenter; but let’s look at this another way. Where in the real world would he earn $6,500,000.00 per year? Last time I looked no teachers, policemen, firemen, electricians, servicemen, and not even crooked politicos make that kind of bread. Invest it properly, rehab and hopefully he’ll be back. At the very least he’s better off then the rest of us.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      (Psst…you mean Wainwright)

      • henryd3rd - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:19 PM

        My bad!

  7. henryd3rd - Feb 24, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    Check that! Maybe crooked politicos can earn that kind of money!

  8. tcostant - Feb 24, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    I agree that the Cards cannot pay those 2012 and 2013, so therefore why pay more than you have to in 2011. Just cut him before openning day and pay only a faction of his salary (I think it’s 25% termination day) and be done with it.

    My two cents

  9. Chris Fiorentino - Feb 24, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    What kind of guy is Wainwright? How can he possibly take $6.5 million from the Cardinals this year when he is hurt? I mean, look at Gil Meche…he retired before taking the money from the Royals because he knew he wouldn’t be able to earn it because he was hurt. That was the moral thing to do. It’s a shame every player who gets hurt doesn’t take the moral high-ground and do the right thing. Do the right thing, Adam. Don’t take money for nothing…and chicks for free. Don’t do it.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 24, 2011 at 5:17 PM

      He’s under contract to accept the money.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Feb 24, 2011 at 6:13 PM

        Um…so was Gil Meche. Your point is…..

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 24, 2011 at 6:17 PM

        Gil retired; Adam will not. This is what insurance is for. Players shouldn’t be punished for being massively injured.

        Gil’s also a rare bird altogether, isn’t he? Not everything will be a precedent.

    • jwbiii - Feb 24, 2011 at 7:08 PM

      My brother-in-law was injured in an on the job injury. He was paid for the 6 months while he was rehabbing. This is fairly normal.

      • phukyouk - Feb 24, 2011 at 8:59 PM

        this is knows as disability. many americans have it. your brother in law was not paid his full salary but likely 40-60% of it.

  10. footdronline - Feb 24, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    St. Louis Cardinals Lose their Ace Pitcher, Adam Wainwright for the Season. Read more at

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