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Cardinals sign Adam Wainwright to one-year deal

After announcing the extension shortly after the end of the season, the Cardinals and Wainwright made the contract official today.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Wainwright will be back with the Cardinals in 2019 on a one-year contract that is heavily — and I mean HEAVILY — laden with incentives, as Fancred’s Jon Heyman and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Monday afternoon:

The Cardinals announced what was initially set to be a one-year contract extension on October 11. But since MLB’s rules prohibit players from taking pay cuts greater than 20 percent when signing contract extensions (as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold detailed earlier this month), Wainwright had to declare free agency and then sign a new one-year deal, which is why it couldn’t be finalized until today.

As Heyman and Rosenthal’s tweets suggest, Wainwright’s $2 million base salary means there’s no chance of the Cardinals having any real regrets — aside from the possibility of they’ll regret giving him a 40-man roster spot — as they bring the 37-year-old back for one more year.

The extensive and variable incentives allow the Cardinals to deploy Wainwright in whatever way best benefits their pitching staff in 2019 — and that role isn’t clear yet. The Cardinals are set to bring back Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, John Gant, Daniel Poncedeleon, Alex Reyes, Michael Wacha, and Luke Weaver — all of whom started in the majors this past season — as well as Dakota Hudson, who pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in the majors but was a starter in the minors and earned PCL Pitcher of the Year honors at Triple-A. But with durability concerns surrounding Martinez, Reyes, and Wacha, the possibility of an offseason trade, and the always-present possibility that another unexpected injury could occur before the season, it can’t hurt for them to have the depth, even if it means that Wainwright ends up pitching out of the bullpen for most or all of the 2019 season.

The three-time All-Star, who was drafted by the Braves but has spent his entire major-league career wearing the Birds on the Bat after being traded in a five-player deal in December 2003, ranks sixth all-time among Cardinals pitchers in Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR (34.3), fifth in wins (148), fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (7.56), seventh in innings (1,932), eight in appearances (352), fifth in starts (285), and second in strikeouts (1,623).