Just days after the news broke of Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw's $30.7 million contract, Adam Wainwright spoke out at the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up about why he happily chose to forgo free agency and stay in St. Louis.
Adam Wainwright might have made more money if he'd gone elsewhere but is happy to be a Cardinal: "You can't buy happiness. I'm not going to be happier anywhere else than where I am right now."
Jeff Curry / USA TODAY Sports
By Stan McNeal
ST. LOUIS -- This isn't exactly a newsflash, but it's worth repeating: The Cardinals are lucky to have Adam Wainwright. So is this city.
First and foremost, the tall right-hander is one of the best starters in the National League.
Beyond that, his affection for the franchise and for St. Louis is so great that he should be a spokesman for the local Chamber of Commerce.
Consider what he had to say about the contract Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw just signed. The deal will pay him an average of $30.7 million over the next seven seasons. Wainwright, meanwhile, will be paid a salary of $19.5 million for the next five years after agreeing to a contract extension last spring. That's $12.2 million less than what Kershaw will make per year. As dominant and as young as Kershaw is, there's not that much difference between the two aces.
If Wainwright had waited six months, he could have become a free agent after last season. While he would not have commanded $30.7 million per season, he would have fetched well north of $20 million annually.
I'm right where I want to be.
-- Adam Wainwright
But if he has any regrets about not testing the free-agent market and exploring other options, he is not letting on.
"Heck no," he said at the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up on Saturday. "I was so happy to not go into this off-season and have to worry about being a free agent. I'm right where I want to be. ... You can't buy happiness. I'm not going to be happier anywhere else than where I am right now."
Then he started gushing.
"First of all, I love the city, I love going to work every day," he said. "I love pulling up and seeing the Arch and seeing the stadium. That's a treat every day. My family is very happy here.
"I know our front office and our way of playing baseball are going to give us a chance to win every year. I've got two (World Series) rings here already, great memories here. My favorite color is red now. It really is. I feel like I bleed Cardinal red. There's no other color I want to wear."
Don't think Wainwright is being naive here, either. He knows what could have happened if he had waited.
"Do I think I could have made more money on the free-agent market? Absolutely," he said. "We worked to get to a number that I felt like made it fair for both sides."
The Cardinals, of course, are not disappointed they locked up Wainwright when they did.
"Adam and his agent both knew Kershaw was going to get something big," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "But a year ago when we were negotiating (Wainwright's) contract, nobody knew how to define 'big' other than three letters. So yeah, we're fortunate that the (Kershaw) deal was done a year later and not then. From the organizational view of things, our hope is we offer an attractive product in a place where players are happy to play and want to be here. Adam certainly knew if he wanted to go to market, he would have done better. He knew that. I think all of you did."
Wainwright, 31, went down a similar road in 2008 when he agreed to an extension that ended up paying him $21 million over the past two years, quite a bargain for his performance. But he left way more on the table this time.
"Once I signed that deal, that was the deal I wanted to sign," he said. "I didn't have to sign it."
Be honest. How many professional athletes have you heard say that when their deal turned out to be so team-friendly?
"What I want to do at the end of the contract is look back, just like I did at this other one, and say that I lived up to the contract I signed," Wainwright said. "I lived up to the expectations that the team signed me to perform and I had fun in doing so. I have great confidence I'm going to do that."
Wainwright says he frequently is in touch with Kershaw and congratulated him after his contract news broke the other day.
"The contract he signed is amazing, there's no doubt about it," Wainwright said. "He's also 25 years old. Compared to him, I'm an old man. I take my role on this team very seriously. I love where I'm at. I love what I've learned here and I can't wait to pass it on."
Passing on his knowledge of pitching would be doable. But passing on his feelings about the Cardinals and contracts? Now that might be just about impossible.